Amazon Prime Air drone tests buzz U.S. border to spite FAA

Amazon PrimeAir flying
Ever since Amazon announced its ambitious Prime Air drone delivery project at the end of 2013, the company has been complaining to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about its apparent lack of flexibility when it comes to green-lighting tests of the flying machine.

So upset was Amazon by the aviation body’s overly cautious approach, as well as its slow response to repeated requests for permission to conduct tests at outdoor sites, that the Web giant had vowed to move its drone-related R&D program to locations outside of the U.S., taking skilled workers and related economic benefits with it.

A recent Guardian report revealed Amazon has indeed followed through on its threat, setting up one of its test sites just a couple of thousand feet from the U.S. border in what looks to be a provocative move to highlight the company’s frustration at the FAA’s confining stance on drone technology.

Located in British Columbia, Canada, just north of Amazon’s Seattle base in Washington, the company’s test team is described as a “formidable” mix of “roboticists, software engineers, aeronautics experts and pioneers in remote sensing – including a former Nasa astronaut and the designer of the wingtip of the Boeing 787.”

Prime Air project leader Gur Kimchi told the Guardian the plan had always been to test its flying machine in the U.S., but restrictions on outdoor flights have prevented the team from trying out its drone in realistic conditions. “So we do what’s necessary,” Kimchi said, “We go to places where we can test outside, in this case Canada.”

The trial flights have reportedly been taking place at the secret site in British Columbia for the last few months, with full backing from the Canadian authorities.

The move to reveal its test program – taking place within walking distance of the U.S. – appears to be an attempt by Amazon to push the FAA into taking a long, hard look at the restrictions it currently imposes on companies eager to move ahead with drone-based research on American soil.

Speaking just last week at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, senior Amazon executive Paul Misener said the U.S. “remains behind in planning for future commercial UAS operations,” adding that his company is “allowed to innovate in other countries in ways that we cannot in the U.S.”

Besides Canada, Amazon is also building an R&D site in the UK, where much of the work is expected to be geared toward drone testing.

There’s still a long way to go for Amazon to realize its dream of delivering goods to customers by drone, but if the FAA can eventually be convinced that such a service would be safe and reliable, there’s certainly a chance it could one day get off the ground.

Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Smart Home

Some food stamp recipients can now buy food online at Amazon, Walmart

A new pilot program that originated at the U.S. Department of Agriculture would enable beneficiaries of food stamps to buy food online from retailers like Amazon and Walmart. The pilot program will be launched in New York.
Emerging Tech

Alphabet’s Wing drones now have FAA approval to deliver packages in the U.S.

Alphabet Wing has become the first company to receive Air Carrier Certification from the FAA. This means that it can begin commercial deliveries from local businesses to homes in the U.S.
Smart Home

You can now have your Amazon packages delivered in your garage

Amazon is expanding its Amazon Key service with Key for Garage. Eligible Amazon Prime subscribers in 50 U.S. cities will be able to sign up, assuming they have a myQ-enabled smart garage door opener.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX experiences problem during test, Crew Dragon capsule may have exploded

SpaceX has experienced a problem during the testing of its Crew Dragon capsule. During the engine test firing at Cape Canaveral yesterday afternoon, an unspecified anomaly occurred which lead to plumes of smoke rising from the test site.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.
Gaming

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Hawaiian botanists’ drone discovers a plant thought to be lost forever

In what may well be a world first, botanists in Hawaii recently used a drone to find a species of plant that scientists believed was extinct. The plant was located on a sheer cliff face nearly 20 years after its last sighting.
Emerging Tech

A battery-free pacemaker harvests and stores energy from heartbeats

Researchers in China and the United States have developed a new battery-free pacemaker which gathers its required electricity from the energy of heartbeats. Here's why that's so exciting.
Smart Home

The startup behind the world’s first laundry robot has folded

When the Laundroid was first announced almost three years ago, then shown off at last year's CES, it was met with a fair bit of both intrigue and derision. But now Seven Dreamers, the company behind it, says the company is out of money.
Emerging Tech

Japanese taxis will use facial recognition to target you with ads as you ride

A Japanese startup is trying to reinvent in-taxi advertising by using facial recognition technology to identify the key characteristics of riders and then presenting them with appropriate ads.