| WASHINGTON, March 24
WASHINGTON, March 24 E-commerce power Amazon.com
blasted federal regulators on Tuesday for being slow to
approve commercial drone testing, saying the United States is
falling behind other countries in the potentially lucrative area
of unmanned aviation technology.
Less than a week after the Federal Aviation Administration
gave Amazon.com the green light to test a delivery drone
outdoors, the company told U.S. lawmakers that the prototype
drone had already become obsolete while the company waited more
than six months for the agency's permission.
"We don't test it anymore. We've moved on to more advanced
designs that we already are testing abroad," said Paul Misener,
Amazon.com's vice president for global public policy.
"Nowhere outside of the United States have we been required
to wait more than one or two months to begin testing," Misener
said in written testimony submitted to the Senate Subcommittee
on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security.
Misener said Amazon had applied on Friday for permission to
test a more advanced drone system and now hopes for quicker
The Amazon.com case illustrates the frustrations of many
companies and industry lobbyists, who say the U.S. regulatory
process is not keeping up with rapidly developing drone
technology that could generate new revenues and cost savings for
a range of industries.
Misener, who was scheduled to join a witness panel at the
subcommittee hearing, said European and other international
authorities have more "reasonable" approaches that recognize the
potential economic benefits of commercial drone operations.
"This low level of government attention and slow pace are
inadequate, especially compared to the regulatory efforts in
other countries," Misener said.
"The (FAA) already has adequate statutory authority. What
the FAA needs is impetus, lest the United States fall further
behind," he added.
Seattle-based Amazon.com, the largest e-commerce company in
the United States, wants to use drones to deliver packages to
its customers over distances of 10 miles (16 km)or more, which
would require drones to travel autonomously while equipped with
technology to avoid collisions with other aircraft.
The FAA recently proposed rules that would lift the current
ban on most commercial drone flights, but several restrictions
attached would make package delivery and other business
Among other constraints, the proposed rules would limit
commercial drones to an altitude of 500 feet (150 metres), allow
flights only during daytime and require operators to keep the
aircraft in sight at all times.
The agency does not expect to finalize the rules until late
2016 or early 2017, according to government officials. During
this period, the current ban will stay in place; companies can
apply for exemptions to use drones for specific business
The FAA has been slow to grant exemptions, however, granting
only 48 of several hundred requests.
The Republican-led subcommittee called the hearing to
examine the agency's efforts to integrate unmanned aircraft
systems, or UAS, safely into U.S. airspace. Industry forecasters
say that drones would generate nearly $14 billion of U.S.
economic activity in the first three years of integration and
$82 billion over a decade.
Meanwhile, Australia, Canada, France and the United Kingdom
have progressed toward airspace integration and allow for
commercial use, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said
in a report to the subcommittee.
Australia has granted operating certificates to 185
businesses, while several European countries have granted
licenses to more than 1,000 operators, according to the report.
While the GAO said overseas restrictions are similar to
those proposed by the FAA, it noted that France has begun to
allow beyond-line-of-sight operations on a limited basis.
(Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal Editing by
Soyoung Kim and Jonathan Oatis)