Amazon gets FAA approval to expand US drone deliveries

Amazon has received approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly its delivery drones longer distances, the company announced on Thursday. Amazon says it can now expand its Prime Air service, which uses delivery drones to fly individual packages, to more customers.

The FAA requires that operators maintain a line of sight to their drones until it approves technology that can safely monitor and control them without visuals. Amazon says it spent years developing Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) technology for its drones to ensure they can detect and avoid obstacles in the air.

The company showcased the technology for FAA inspectors to demonstrate that its drones can safely navigate away from planes, helicopters and hot air balloons.

The announcement comes after Alphabet's Wing received an FAA exemption last December to fly its drones beyond the visual line of sight.

In a press release, Amazon said the approval allows it to, "serve more customers via drone and effectively expand and scale [its] drone delivery operations." Amazon is going to start by expanding its drone delivery operations in College Station, Texas to reach customers in more densely populated areas. The company also plans to integrate drone deliveries into its same-day delivery network later this year.

Amazon says it needed the FAA approval to achieve its goal of using drones to deliver 500 million packages per year by the end of this decade.

The announcement comes a month after Amazon confirmed that it was ending Prime Air drone deliveries in Lockeford, California. The town was the company’s second U.S. drone delivery site, after College Station. Amazon didn’t offer details about why it was ceasing drone delivery operations in the area, but did announce that it was going to begin drone deliveries in Tolleson, Arizona later this year.

Amazon isn’t the only tech company to operate drone deliveries, as Walmart introduced Wing drone deliveries to limited Superstores last year. Other companies working with Wing for drone deliveries include Walgreens and DoorDash.