New Drone City

Amazon Is Asking the FAA to Bend the Law for Their Drone Program

They want permission to run tests near their Seattle headquarters.
Delivery drones, coming soon to a suburban neighborhood near you. (Photo: YouTube)

Delivery drones, coming soon to a suburban neighborhood near you. (Photo: YouTube)

When Jeff Bezos first announced his evil plan to start a drone delivery program for all the precious goods you order from Amazon, everyone was pretty sure it was either a publicity stunt, an April Fool’s joke or evidence that the billionaire had gone off his rocker.

But now, it appears Mr. Bezos and his ilk might actually be serious about getting the drone delivery program up and running. They’re at least serious enough to be taking time out of their busy schedule of possible-sex-toy-construction to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to bend the rules so that they can test drones on their own terms.

Currently, drone testing is only allowed within six FAA-approved sites throughout the country, Gizmodo reports. Amazon claims it could “innovate more quickly if it could test closer to home.” From Gizmodo:

“Amazon’s plea includes some new details about how well the project is going. Its drones, it claims, can now travel at over 50 mph while carrying a 5-pound package, and it’s now developing systems—with a team made up of roboticists, scientists, aeronautical engineers, remote-sensing experts, and a former NASA astronaut—to improve agility, flight duration, and obstacle avoidance, too.”

A letter from Amazon to FAA administrator Michael P. Huerta points out that hobbyists and manufacturers of model aircraft are allowed to test their drones wherever they want outside. Poor Amazon, because it’s a commercial enterprise, can only conduct the drone tests “indoors or in other countries,” the letter reads. They’re asking for permission to conduct tests closer to their Seattle headquarters.

Delivering packages is just one use case for drones. Drones are often used for photography (to the chagrin of at least one concussed groom). There are now illegal marijuana-crop-seeking drones and Taser-equipped drones. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is toying with the idea of using drones as floating wifi routers in order to bring Internet to remote regions of Africa. Even Martha Stewart is getting in on the fun.

We wouldn’t be surprised if the FAA approved Amazon’s request — corporations are having rules bent for them left and right these days. Still, that doesn’t mean the sky will be filled with drones delivering used textbooks and multipacks of Clif bars any time soon. Tech billionaires have been known to petition the government on far crazier matters just for shits and giggles.

Follow Molly Mulshine on Twitter or via RSS. mmulshine@observer.com