Amazon files petition to test drive package-carrying drones

BY Xander Landen  July 12, 2014 at 4:14 PM EST
This week Amazon filed a petition with the Federal Aviation Administration to get permission to test its package-carrying drones.

Amazon has filed a petition with the Federal Aviation Administration to obtain permission to test its package-carrying drones. Credit: NewsHour Weekend

What was first designed to be predator of war may soon be your new mailman – that is, if Amazon gets its way.

The company filed a petition with the Federal Aviation Administration on July 10 to get clearance for testing its package-carrying drones.

The popularity of drones for commercial and civilian use has skyrocketed – occasionally resulting in criminal charges.

On July 8, two men in New York City were arrested and charged with reckless endangerment for flying a drone within 800 feet of an NYPD helicopter above the George Washington Bridge. The drone could have collided with the helicopter, officials said.

Flying drones recreationally is legal, the FAA has said, as long as pilots don’t operate them within five miles of an airport or above 400 feet. But these restrictions haven’t stopped some pilots from pushing the limits.

“Just go onto YouTube and you’ll see tons of examples of people using these things irresponsibly,” Daniel Schwarzbach, the executive director of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association told the New York Times.

Across the country, the widespread use of drones by amateur filmmakers was on display during the Fourth of July weekend, when dozens of videos of fireworks recorded by drones hundreds of feet in the air were posted to YouTube. The FAA is investigating several of these flights to determine whether they violated the current airspace restrictions for drones.

The FAA plans to release regulations for recreational and commercial drone use by September of next year, but some businesses eager to use them aren’t waiting for the rules to be in place before they take flight.

“We see other people in the real estate industry using them, and my feeling is it just seems like too good of a tool not to use,” Steve Bruere, president of the central Iowa land brokerage firm, People’s Co, told the Des Moines Register. “We just figure we’ll ask for forgiveness later.”

Drones have also been reportedly used without federal approval for professional filmmaking, agriculture and journalism.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International said the FAA’s delay in setting drone regulations is also delaying an industry that could generate up to 70,000 jobs and add $13.6 billion to the economy in three years. The FAA has received pressure from 33 industries considered to be commercial drone advocates, calling for a faster establishment of drone guidelines.

Whatever the case, the FAA claims it has made “significant progress” in preparing the U.S.’s skies for drones, the Associated Press reports.

But aviation authorities have said the transition from remote-controlled war machine will likely rely on the safety of the system.

“We support the use of this technology, but we support its responsible use,” Schwarzbach said.