Amazon has been granted federal approval to begin testing commercial drone flights capable of delivering packages in under 30 minutes.
Amazon Prime Air, the retailers drone delivery arm, has been given the green light by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to begin testing autonomous drone deliveries, according to Bloomberg.
It is now one of just three companies to receive such approval from the FAA, which technically designates Amazon as an “air carrier”.
UPS became the first company to get approval last year and has been delivering medical supplies within a hospital campus ever since.
Meanwhile Google’s owner Alphabet received the approval for its Wing arm and has been working with retailer Walgreens to carry out limited deliveries in Virginia.
“This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world,” Amazon vice president David Carbon said.
Amazon said it will begin carrying out its own delivery tests, but didn’t give any details about where or when.
Last year it unveiled a new high-tech six-rotor hybrid delivery drone, capable of vertical take-off and landing, as well as sustained forward flight, which uses a combination of data from visual, thermal and ultrasonic sensors to autonomously navigate.
While its current FAA approvals don’t allow it, Amazon said it plans to make drone deliveries within a 7.5 mile-radius of one of its warehouses and reach customers within 30 minutes with packages weighing up to five pounds.
The FAA still has work to do on creating regulation for this entirely new sector before drone deliveries become commonplace across the US, but this marks another significant step forward.