The FAA this week issued a report that would affect Amazon’s proposed drone delivery service, called Amazon Prime Air.
The report clarified between recreational drone use and commercial use masquerading as hobbying.
“Clearly, commercial operations would not be hobby or recreation flights,” the FAA said (PDF).
But Amazon doesn’t think the ruling pertains to what it’s trying to do.
“This is about hobbyists and model aircraft, not Amazon, and has no effect on our plans,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s VP for Global Public Policy.
Another Amazon spokesperson said that the FAA was working to create rules around commercial drone use.
Since Tuesday, articles have come out suggesting that the FAA really wasn’t targeting Amazon.
“Turns out, reports that the ruling affects Amazon’s plans were incorrect, including one in the PSBJ that has since been removed from our website,” the Pugent Sound Business Journal’s Emily Parkhurst writes.
Parkhurst’s claim that the media misinterpreted the FAA’s report is somewhat undercut by the fact that her organisation was among those to “misinterpret” it.
“The interpretive rule we released recently had NOTHING to do with commercial operations,” Laura Brown, the FAA’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, told Business Insider.
So while it may be true that the FAA didn’t “shoot down” Amazon Prime Air, the point remains the same: commercial drone operations are the exception to the rule, not the rule.
The FAA has only approved two commercial drone operations, and both were in the Arctic. BP was the more talked about of these two approvals. The company is using drones to monitor gas fields and drilling sites.
But these conditional approvals don’t exactly bode well for Amazon, which wants to operate drones in densely populated areas (not the Arctic).
Amazon, for its part, is lobbying the FAA heavily to push Amazon Prime Air forward.
But it’s unlikely that the FAA will simply open the floodgates to commercial drones anytime soon. For all intents and purposes, the FAA may as well have a ban on the drones. That’s how restrictive their approvals have been so far.
“The FAA recognises the demand for commercial [drones], and we are integrating the technology in an incremental manner, with safety as our top priority,” Brown said. “We expect to publish a proposed rule for small [drones] later this year.”
It’s unclear if the FAA’s upcoming rule will constitute a thumbs up for Amazon. On its website,
the FAA emphasises “incremental” commercial drone use. It wouldn’t be surprising if the FAA published a ruling on commercial drone use that technically allowed Amazon Prime Air to operate, but in a very limited capacity.
So maybe we’ll see one or two Amazon drones, one day.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.