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What’s That Coming Over The Hill – It’s My New Hairdryer? UK To Be Amazon’s Guinea Pig For Drone Testing

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It’s really happening! Amazon have announced they will be working alongside the Civil Aviation Authority to test drive autonomous drones with a view to launching the service.

Amazon has agreed a partnership with the UK Civil Aviation Authority that will allow the online shopping site to perform beyond-line-of-sight test flights in rural and suburban areas.

Unlike the Federal Aviation Association in the US, which only permits line-of-sight operations, the CAA will allow test flights that involve a single person controlling and monitoring multiple autonomous drone flights, trialling their “sense” and “avoid” technologies.

The tests will use devices weighing less than 25 kilos, that are battery powered, can operate beyond line of sight of 10 miles, fly under 400 feet, and travel over 50mph.

Amazon’s Prime Air division already has a base in the UK, according to Tech Crunch. Yesterday, Paul Misener, Amazon VP of Global Innovation Policy and Communications, said “The UK is a leader in enabling drone innovation – we’ve been investing in research and development here for quite some time. This strengthens our partnership with the UK and brings Amazon closer to our goal of using drones to safely deliver parcels in 30 minutes to customers in the UK and elsewhere around the world.”

Amazon plan to work closely with the CAA; says Misener; “it will help inform the development of future policy and regulation in this area.”

Amazon is also testing drones in The Netherlands, and Canada. Daniel Buchmueller, the co-founder of Amazon’s drone program and Amazon’s aviation lead in the UK, based in Cambridge, has said, according to Tech Crunch, “we won’t launch until we can demonstrate safe operations”, but that currently “we can efficiently move packages up to 2kg in 30 minutes or less using small aerial drones.”

Misener also added; “using small drones for the delivery of parcels will improve customer experience, create new jobs in a rapidly growing industry, and pioneer new sustainable delivery methods to meet future demand”.

Tim Johnson, CAA Policy Director, commented; “we want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system.”

The UK has long been ahead of the game when it comes to online; back in 2012 the Telegraph reported that 6 out of 10 British adults used the internet to buy goods online, more than double the average for OECD countries, which includes France, Germany and the US. The average brit at that time was spending more than £2,100 online.

The next highest spenders were Denmark, with just over £1,000.

The likelihood is that Amazon, who claim to be guided by 4 principles; customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence and commitment to not paying any tax…sorry, that last one was a joke, the fourth is really long term thinking, would have wanted to test in the US, but, having failed to reach agreement with the FAA, has turned to the UK, Netherlands, and Canada.

There are certainly advantages in being amongst the first countries in the world to try out a new technology, and, if successful, the introduction of autonomous delivery drones will surely be one of the most significant technical developments of all time.

What could possibly go wrong?


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