The FAA has grounded Amazon’s plans to deliver packages via drone, according to an Ars Technica report.
The report doesn’t mention Amazon Prime Air by name, but outlines the acceptable use of drones (which it calls “model aircraft”) within the limits of hobbying and recreation.
“Clearly, commercial operations would not be hobby or recreation flights,” said the FAA report. “Likewise, flights that are in furtherance of a business, or incidental to a person’s business, would not be a hobby or recreation flight.”
In just two sentences, Amazon’s dreams of a drone delivery service were dashed.
Amazon Prime Air was announced in a “60 Minutes” special on CBS last December. When Jeff Bezos made the announcement many deemed it a publicity stunt that couldn’t actually be carried out. Amazon had to field questions like “Is this science fiction or is this real?”
“It looks like science fiction, but it’s real,” the company has said. “From a technology point of view, we’ll be ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is actively working on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles.”
But the FAA has no provision for commercial drones as of yet. Drones fall squarely within the organisations definition for model aircraft, which are explicitly for recreational purposes.
That said, there’s reason for Amazon to be hopeful about using drones in the future. Two weeks ago the FAA granted BP the right to fly commercial drones in Alaska.
“These surveys on Alaska’s North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who oversees the FAA.
BP uses drones to monitor oil rigs and pipelines for maintenance, but the company may have pried the door open for more directly commercial uses down the road.
But until the FAA decides to allow commercial drone use, Amazon might as well sell its drones to customers. At least they will be able to use them.
Amazon didn’t return our request for comment, but we’ll update this if they do.
Here is a table in the FAA report:
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.