Drone tie-up between Amazon and UK gets ball rolling

Amazon and the British government have announced a partnership to test the e-commerce major’s aerial drone parcel delivery technology.

Supervised by the United Kingdom’s aviation safety regulator, the civil aviation authority (CAA), the trial will test the drones when they are out of sight from operators, measure their ability to identify and avoid obstacles and gauge the success of operators flying multiple drones at once, Amazon said on Tuesday.

“We want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system,” said Tim Johnson, a policy director at the CAA, said in the statement. “These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach.”


Lior Yekoutieli, the head of Global Technology Alliances at Deloitte, said Amazon’s collaboration with the UK was necessary to get commercial drone technology off the ground. “The UK is gaining short-term advantage, but this agreement will have benefits for the worldwide drone delivery market,” Mr Yekoutieli said. “There needed to be collaboration between a technology company and regulator to make it all happen.”

Amazon, which is trying to reduce its dependence on logistics companies such as UPS and FedEx, applauded the UK for allowing drone delivery to move forward. “The UK is charting a path forward for drone technology that will benefit customers, industry and society,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global innovation policy and communications.

Amazon’s partnership with the UK comes one month after the US department of transportation’s federal aviation administration finalised the first operational rules for commercial use of drones that require pilots to keep the unmanned aircraft within line of sight.

In April, a UK government official criticised Amazon for not providing guidance about the safe operation of drones to customers. The company responded by saying such information was included on its website. Also that month, a British Airways pilot landing at London’s Heathrow airport reported a drone had struck the airplane, an incident that has not been confirmed, although a number of near-misses in 2015 were acknowledged.

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