Amazon’s Prime Air has not been able to meet its delivery milestone due to an ongoing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restriction.
According to the government agency, Amazon drones must complete hundreds of test flights without any incidents before it can fully roll out its delivery service.
Long Walk to Freedom
Since its debut in 2022, Prime Air’s singular purpose has been to enable the unmanned delivery of goods with drones in less than 30 minutes. However, the company has battled one regulatory bottleneck or the other.
According to a recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruling, Prime Air drones are not permitted to fly over people, roads, and structures when making deliveries. To overturn this ruling, the drone division of the e-commerce giant has been asked to complete several hundreds of test flights without recording any incidents in the process.
The large-scale customer service satisfaction business has been forced to cut back on its plans despite announcing earlier to ramp up its drone operations this year.
Speaking in a January status update video, head of drone delivery services David Carbon announced that the test flight for its new MK27-2 was already underway, with 12 test flights already in the bag.
While this might sound exciting to hear, Amazon’s durability and testing (D&R) testing has previously been kickstarted before the FAA put a wedge in the division’s plans.
Amazon is still keen on proceeding with its drone delivery and has so far launched two live test markets – one in Lockeford, California, and the other in College Station, Texas. In these regions, Prime Air has still been unable to launch due to the FAA’s broad restrictions.
Given this, the autonomous delivery service is severely restricted to only two households in Lockeford within a mile of its facility.
Employee morale has also significantly plummeted in the division following thousands of layoffs in the parent company. Amazon has so far cut its staff by 18,000 jobs following CEO Jeff Wilke’s announcement to cut costs.
However, a spokesperson recently said the company is as committed to the idea as when it was first launched. She also noted that these things take time, and the company is optimistic it would be able to fulfill the FAA’s performance logs and kickstart by this year.
Disasters in the Past
The FAA’s strong-handed approach to the e-commerce delivery business is not entirely its fault.
Prior to the launch of the MK 27-2, Prime Air floated the MK 27, which could not meet up to the federal agency’s safety standards and flight conditions, prompting them to rule against an earlier letter forwarded by then director of safety Sean Cassidy.
In it, Cassidy tried to sway the FAA to review its rulings regarding the manless drone. The agency still maintained its stance that the drone is not meeting full durability and reliability parameters.
While the MK 27-2 might be the next level for the company, it is already looking ahead. In a November private event held in Boston, the company unveiled a next-level delivery drone called MK 30 or CX-3.
The key difference between it and the MK 27-2 in operation includes a much quieter flight sound and less mass density.
The drone delivery business is fiercely competitive, with more companies turning to the sky in order to better satisfy their customers.
With logistic issues becoming even more rampant as the Russia-Ukraine war drags on, many businesses now deploy drones to fast-track package deliveries.
According to a global drone market report, the industry captured about $4.12 billion in valuation last year. The unmanned flight space will expand by 13.3% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between now and 2030.
Given this, Amazon is focusing on an established market niche and may have its work cut out for it if it still intends to complete 10,000 deliveries by this year’s end.
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