AMBITIOUS: An Amazon.com image showing the so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project that would see Amazon packages delivered by drone.
AMBITIOUS: An Amazon.com image showing the so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project that would see Amazon packages delivered by drone. AP Photoamazon

Amazon's drone delivery denied in the US

AMAZON'S ambitious plans to deliver packages by drone have been grounded for the near future as the US Federal Aviation Administration makes it clear they won't allow "model aircraft" to be used for "delivering packages to people for a fee".

This is the wording used by the FAA in a newly-released 17-page document that clarifies the attitude towards the growing tide of small drones.

Their classification of these remote-controlled bots as "model aircraft" makes it clear that although public perception of this technology has changed with the advent of powerful military and surveillance drones, the FAA sees more similarities than differences with the "hobby" aircraft that have been used by enthusiasts.

The FAA's reaction won't come as much of a surprise to those in the tech scene who were unconvinced about the plausibility of Amazon's 'Prime Air'.

However, Amazon has always acknowledged there would be legislative difficulties, noting at the time of the launch that "putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance the technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations".

The FAA have maintained since 2007 that is illegal to operate drones commercially in the US, with the agency saying they will revisit the issue with potential new rules slated for the end of 2015. At the moment the agency is taking a hard line against the technology in all commercial applications.

As well as prohibiting the delivery of packages for a fee, the FAA has banned the use of model aircraft for any number of commercial possibilities - from photographing property to surveying farmland.

A recent investigation from The Washington Post suggests that the FAA is right to be cautious: in the past two years there were 15 cases of drones flying "dangerously close" to airports or passenger aircraft, in addition to 47 military drone crashes since 2001 and 23 civilian crashes since 2009.

In the UK would-be drone operators are facing similar legislative problems hurdles, with the Civil Aviation Authority's current regulations banning all drones heavier than 20kg from flying in civilian airspace. However,anecdotal evidence suggests these regulations are being breached on a regular basis.



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