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Amazon asks FAA for permission to expand drone-delivery testing outside lab

11 July 2014 Inc, which intends to introduce drone-delivery for packages, has approached  aviation regulators for permission to expand testing outside its research laboratory.

''We are rapidly experimenting and iterating on Prime Air inside our next generation research and development lab in Seattle,'' the company said in a letter posted on a government website on yesterday, Bloomberg reported.

The Washington-based company wants to deliver packages weighing less than 5 pounds (2.3kg) with unmanned aircraft capable of reaching speeds of over 50 miles (80km) an hour, it said.

According to the company, 86 per cent of its deliveries were light enough to be made by its proposed drones, allowing for faster service to customers. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which had banned most commercial drone operations until it framed rules for them, at least initially does not plan to allow the kind of automated flight paths envisioned by Amazon.

So far, Amazon has been able to test its aircraft only inside its lab or in other countries, it said. ''Amazon would prefer to keep the focus, jobs, and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States by conducting private research and development operations outdoors near Seattle,'' it said in the letter signed by Paul Misener, vice-president for global public policy (See: Amazon's drone plans may take years to materialise).

Meanwhile, TechCrunch reported that the drone-delivery service, called Prime Air, could greatly speed up Amazon's delivery times, creating a competitive advantage for it over other digital marketplaces and lowering the time-threshold advantage that traditional stores still enjoy over their online competition.

According to the company, seeing Amazon Prime Air would be as normal one day as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation.

It asked for the exemption to allow it to be ready to launch its drones when the legal framework is in place for it to do so.

According to the company, the drones were on their eight and ninth generation, and could fly up to 50 miles per hour.

The FAA was currently testing drones at a number of locations in the US, but had come under criticism over the pace of its work which was too slow thus far to meet set targets.

This if true, could set back the growth of the drone industry, something that Amazon obviously thought would be large.

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