Amazon sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration warning that it would “have no choice” but to move more of its drone research outside the United States if it wasn’t allowed to do more testing outside soon.
Amazon is currently testing its delivery drones, which it hopes will eventually be able to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less, in the United Kingdom. In its letter, Amazon said that it would prefer to do more testing in the US. The company is unable to do so currently because the FAA restricts commercial testing outdoors until it releases its official rules for drone safety in the next few years.
Amazon has currently been testing its delivery drones in its indoor labs and at Business Insider’s recent Ignition conference, CEO Jeff Bezos described them as “truly remarkable.” In its letter, the company reiterates its request, first filed nearly five months ago, that it be able to test its delivery drones on “private property in a rural area of Washington State, away from people or crowds” under the supervision of trained pilots and at low altitudes using geofencing.
The FAA grants “experimental certificates” to allow certain tests, but it hasn’t granted one to Amazon yet. The Wall Street Journal reports that the agency has been working with Amazon on an experimental certificate and is awaiting more information. In the letter, Amazon writes that the process for getting an experimental certificate is “unnecessarily onerous” and ill-suited to the fast-pace with which Amazon wants to move ahead with its testing.
Amazon is fed up with waiting. The letter reads:
Our continuing innovation through outdoor testing in the United States and, more generally, the competitiveness of the American small UAS industry, can no longer afford to wait. Amazon is increasingly concerned that, unless substantial progress is quickly made in opening up the skies in the United States, the nation is at risk of losing its position as the center of innovation for the UAS technological revolution, along with the key jobs and economic benefits that come as a result
If Amazon can’t start testing outside soon, it will start testing overseas.
“Without the ability to test outdoors in the United States soon, we will have no choice but to divert even more of our [drone] research and development resources abroad,” Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, writes.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.