Prime Air would see parcels weighing up to five pounds delivered by small drones

Prime Air would see parcels weighing up to five pounds delivered by small drones

Online retail giant Amazon has been granted permission by the UK Government to explore the possibility of delivery by drone.

The retailer's Prime Air delivery scheme would see parcels weighing up to five pounds delivered by small drones within 30 minutes to customers in the UK and elsewhere around the world.

Now, in a partnership with the government Amazon has been granted permission by a cross-Government team, supported by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), to explore three key innovations: beyond line of sight operations in rural and suburban areas, testing sensor performance to make sure the drones can identify and avoid obstacles, and flights where one person operates multiple highly-automated drones.

The scheme is designed to help Amazon and the government understand how drones can be used safely and reliably in the logistics industry and determine what operating rules and safety regulations will be required.

"The UK is a leader in enabling drone innovation – we've been investing in Prime Air research and development here for quite some time," said Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president of global innovation policy and communications. "This announcement 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."

According to Misener, using drones will improve customer experience, create new jobs and pioneer new sustainable delivery methods. "The UK is charting a path forward for drone technology that will benefit consumers, industry and society," he adds.

As the UK's aviation safety regulator, the CAA says it will be fully involved in the initiative and adds the outcomes of the tests will help inform the development of future drone policy and regulation.

"We want to enable the innovation that arises from the development of drone technology by safely integrating drones into the overall aviation system," said Tim Johnson, CAA policy director. "These tests by Amazon will help inform our policy and future approach."

While Amazon believes that, "one day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road," the project has been hampered by regulatory hurdles in the US and elsewhere.