Amazon Wants Dedicated Airspace for Delivery Drones

Amazon's proposal carves out airspace from 200ft-400ft exclusively for delivery drones, with a further 100ft above it declared a no-fly zone. The plan might also make it harder for drone hobbyists to fly.

Photo Caption: Amazon's proposal for how to safely integrate delivery drones into the sky.

Amazon continues to clarify its plan on how to safely integrate delivery drones into the air.

Amazon proposes (PDF) that airspace from 200-400 feet off the ground be exclusively reserved for delivery drones. The next 100 feet above that would be a no-fly zone, acting as a buffer between the drones and commercial aircraft.

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Amazon also says the drones allowed to fly in the 200-400 foot airspace need to be equipped with the following capabilities:

  • Advanced GPS system to pinpoint their location in real-time along with any nearby drones
  • A reliable Internet connection to maintain communications with that real-time GPS data
  • Online flight planning to predict and communicate their flight path
  • The ability to collaborate with other drones to avoid collisions
  • Sensors to avoid other obstacles such as birds, buildings and cables

“The way we guarantee the greatest safety is by requiring that as the level of complexity of the airspace increases, so does the level of sophistication of the vehicle,” says Gur Kimchi, VP and co-founder of Amazon Prime Air, who detailed the proposal at the NASA UTM Convention in California. “Under our proposal everybody has to be collaborative – vehicles must be able to talk to each other and avoid each other as the airspace gets denser at low altitudes.”

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You might be wondering what this proposal has in store for drone hobbyists. Well, Amazon didn’t forget about you, but it seems the retail giant wants to make it harder for you to fly. Amazon proposes hobbyists can fly within that 200-400 foot zone if their drone is equipped with each of the five aforementioned capabilities. If not, you’ll have to take your drone to a reserved airfield in an unpopulated area to get in some flying.

Under current rules in the US, they are allowed to fly their aircraft within line of sight up to 400ft as long as they stay away from airports and other out-of-bounds areas.

Brendan Schulman, a long-time drone hobbyist and a a senior executive at DJI, points out to The Guardian that hobbyists are the greatest use of drones is by hobbyists. “That’s currently by far the most common use of the technology, so before you disrupt their experience you want to think carefully about what slice of airspace would really be needed by these new technologies.”

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Kimchi, however, says Amazon’s proposal won’t have much of an impact on how drone hobbyists fly. “They will have low-risk areas in more rural areas where they can continue to fly safely to their heart’s content.”

There are many obstacles, of course, that Amazon needs to overcome before drone delivery becomes a reality. But what do you think about Amazon’s proposed airspace plan? Is it good or bad for drone hobbyists? Take our poll below.

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About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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Article Topics

Robot Fun · Drones · News · Amazon · All Topics

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