Amazon Reveals Fresh Details on its Drone Delivery Service

Amazon has been developing its drone delivery service, Amazon Prime Air, for nearly three years. While the process has been slow, and had many hurdles to tackle, the company remains confident that Prime Air will launch soon, but it will not necessarily make its debut in the US.

In an exclusive interview with Yahoo, Amazon’s Vice President for Global Public Policy Paul Misener, revealed that the logistics of Prime Air, which will use custom drones to make deliveries more than 10 miles from an Amazon depot, have been established, with the only sticking point, in the US at least, being with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“The goals we’ve set for ourselves are: The range has to be over 10 miles. These things will weigh about 55 pounds each, but they’ll be able to deliver parcels that weigh up to five pounds,” Misener told Yahoo’s David Pogue. “It turns out that the vast majority of the things we sell at Amazon weigh less than five pounds.”

Regarding dealing with climate, weather conditions, and urban terrain, Misener said, “our customers live in a wide variety of buildings. Some live in rural farmhouses, some live in high-rise city skyscrapers, and then everything in between, in suburban and exurban environments. We want to be able to serve all of those customers. And it may take a different kind of a drone to best work in each one.”

Amazon is still in negotiations with the FAA, and various other international airspace regulators, to make Prime Air viable without impacting existing air traffic.

“[W]e’ve proposed to regulators around the world, including the FAA, a certain kind of an airspace design that would keep the drones separated from the aircraft,” Misener explained. “We were thinking: Manned aircraft above 500 feet. Between 400 and 500 feet there’d be a no-fly zone — a safety buffer. Between 200 and 400 feet would be a transit zone, where drones could fly fairly quickly, horizontally. And then below 200 feet, that would be limited to certain operations. For us, it would be takeoff and landing. For others, it might be aerial photography. The realtors, for example, wouldn’t need to fly above 200 feet to get a great shot of a house.”

However, if the FAA refuses to allow Amazon’s drone deliveries, the company will continue to pursue the strategy in other countries. “There’s no reason why the United States must be first,” Misener added. “We hope it is.”

Amazon released a new video last month showcasing Prime Air, inexplicably starring Jeremy Clarkson (well, he is under contract now):

 

Drone Maker DJI Tests New Geofencing Software

One of the world’s leading drone manufacturers, DJI, launched a beta version of its geofencing software to the US and Europe. Geofencing intends to address many of the recent incidents involving privately owned drones being flown in inappropriate airspace, by limiting the flight of drones in restricted airspace due to either official regulations or safety issues.

This new feature to be rolled out to DJI drones is named Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) and has two major functions to drone owners. Firstly, it will keep operators informed about areas that may have flight restrictions in place for any reason. It makes use of live information about any areas with temporary restrictions for a number of reasons, from disasters to crowded stadium events. Additionally, it will highlight any locations that are restricted for security purposes, for example, the airspace of prisons and power stations. Secondly, GEO will limit drones from taking off in these restricted zones, so as to deter potential mischief or harm caused by inappropriate use.

Of course, drone users may have legitimate reasons to fly their drone in an area deemed to be potentially restricted. Allowances have been implemented for such circumstances, as operators with verified DJI accounts will be able to unlock the flight restrictions in some areas, however, only if they supply valid credit or debit card information or a mobile telephone number. This will allow any unauthorized or unsafe drone use in these restricted areas to be traced back to its owner. DJI assures that the information supplied by operators will not be collected or stored and unlocking flight restrictions will come at no cost. This feature will not be available in all restricted flight zones, with locations such as Washington DC remaining a no-fly zone even with verification.

Currently, GEO is only in beta, and will require both an update to drone firmware as well as a version of the DJI Go app, available via an APK file for android users or by emailing flysafe@dji.com for the iOS version. For those unwilling to play with beta firmware, a release version from DJI shouldn’t be too far behind. Hopefully, initiatives like GEO combined with legal restrictions on drones and mandatory registration should bring a sharp drop in drone-related incidents. So long as those in charge of the restrictions are not too harsh, legitimate drone operators should not find too much issue with the restrictions either.

Google Wants to Bring Order to Drone Airspace

Drones are becoming more popular than ever, but flying them around now poses a bit of a risk. This is why Google wants to bring order to low altitude airspace, namely the airspace below 500ft, so its Wing drones may be able to fly safely and avoid collisions.

Google proposed that all people operating a drone should send their location info back to the airspace access and collision avoidance. In doing so, air traffic control authorities then could pass on the information to private airspace service providers. This is how Dave Vos, head of the Wing project at Google, said it sees the future of drone control.

Vos said that private airspace control companies, which he calls ASPs, can manage these low airspace requests from anyone willing to fly drones around. In his vision, ASPs should be given a brief flight plan of drones who request take-off, which are evaluated based on other drone flight paths. The ASPs can then determine if flight path changes need to be made to avoid collision, or even deny requests based on how congested the traffic is in the area.

At this point, low altitude airspace is mostly left unregulated, so everyone with a drone or any other sort of flying contraption can make use of them. However, with Google, Amazon and other big companies starting to take an interest in drones and how they can use them in their daily business activities, low altitude airspace needs some sort of traffic management system.

But this also means that most people who want to fly their drone in parks or above their house will most likely be denied to do so once regulations are in place. So how comfortable are you with this decision? Do you think that a low altitude airspace management system is needed? Let us know!

Thank you PCWorld for providing us with this information

CAA Warns That Reckless Drone Pilots Could Face Jail Time

After another close miss between a drone and a commercial airplane, the CAA warns that you not only could be fined but also face prison time if you fly your drone recklessly. An Airbus A320’s wing passed just 6 meters below a drone that was hovering at Heathrow airport and this news comes just days after a Lufthansa jet nearly collided with a drone on the approach to Warsaw’s airport.

There have been 6 other incidents with drones that nearly missed commercial planes between March 2014 and March 2015 in the UK alone and users of these toys need to be aware of the rules surrounding them. The drones become more and more sophisticated and also easier to afford, thus the amount of drones in the air is rapidly increasing.

Recklessly endangering an aircraft is a criminal offense and you could face a five-year jail sentence. The general drone code of conduct is: Always keep your drone in sight which is about 500 meters and never fly higher than 122 meters. You should also stay at least 50m away from people, vehicles, and structures due to privacy laws and up to 150m away from large groups of people.

The British Airline Pilots Association also urges owners of drones to exercise common sense when flying their crafts and remember that they are entering one of the busiest areas. There are a lot of flying objects in our airspace and they’re getting more every day.

Thank You BBC for providing us with this information