London-Amazon.com Inc said this week that it has entered into a partnership with the British government to speed up the process for allowing small drones to makes deliveries.
The world’s biggest online retailer, which has laid out plans to start using drones for deliveries by 2017, said a cross-government team supported by the UK Civil Aviation Authority had provided it with the permissions necessary to explore the process.
Amazon unveiled a video last year showcasing how an unmanned drone could deliver packages, narrated by former Top Gear TV host Jeremy Clarkson.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said last month the use of drones for deliveries will require separate regulation from their general use.
Gur Kimchi, vice president of Amazon Prime Air, shared a year ago the company’s proposal for how drones could operate safely in cities, suburbs and beyond around the world.
He spoke at the NASA Ames Research Center during a conference.
Amazon suggests divvying up airspace access based on a drone’s mission and capabilities. Drones would connect to an online network that manages their flights in real time to prevent any trouble. Amazon believes this approach will ensure safe and efficient drone flights.
Kimchi is calling for airspace under 200 feet to be designated for low-speed localized traffic. Drones in this space might be surveying, shooting videos or conducting inspections.
Drones without the best collision-avoid technology would also be restricted to this level.
While that airspace would be like a local service road, between 200 and 400 feet would serve as a highway for drones. Most of these drones would be flying autonomously. A drone making a long commute to conduct a mapping operation or package delivery could speed along in airspace populated by drones only with the most sophisticated sense-and-avoid technologies.
These drones would communicate with each other and be able to detect hazards not on the drone network, such as birds. The airspace between 400 and 500 feet would be left empty as a buffer between drones and planes.