Amazon: Send In The Drones (And The Lobbyists)

Jul 11, 2014

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is seeking permission to send unmanned aircraft into the skies. The company has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test its delivery-by-drone system.

The Seattle retailer has been testing drones indoors in Seattle, but it needs a federal exemption to test them outside. The company tells the FAA it wants to test drones on its own property “near Seattle.”

Amazon introduced its drones to the world in December.

A company video shows a tiny, eight-rotor helicopter hoisting a package from a warehouse. It zooms over farm fields, then sets its lunchbox-size payload on a customer’s porch.

Amazon says its remote-control drones can fly 50 miles an hour and carry a five-pound package. It promises the system will deliver packages in 30 minutes or less.

Federal rules now under review don’t allow the commercial use of drones. Amazon has hired lobbyists to try to change that.

The online giant has signed up the Washington, D.C., firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld to lobby for drone delivery.

Congress has instructed the FAA to integrate drones into the nation’s airspace by September 2015.

The FAA approved the nation’s first overland use of commercial drones in June to fly over oil fields on Alaska’s remote north slope, where privacy and safety concerns are small. And last fall, the FAA allowed drones to fly over oil exploration areas in the Arctic Ocean.

In December, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told CBS News that tiny octo-copters could be delivering packages for Amazon within four or five years.

Amazon did not respond to KUOW’s requests for an interview. The company’s lobbying efforts were revealed in a legally required disclosure form filed in June with the U.S. Congress.