Amazon's delivery drone dreams dealt mighty blow?

Amazon drone flying
The Doc and Marty are going to be so disappointed

Update: Contrary to the latest reports, Amazon maintains that its plans are proceeding as normal - and the FAA is backing it up for once.

"This is about hobbyists and model aircraft, not Amazon, and has no effect on our plans," Amazon Vice President of Global Public Policy Paul Misener said in a statement sent to TechRadar.

"Our plan has always been to operate as a commercial entity to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less through Amazon Prime Air and this has no effect on that," he continued.

According to an Amazon spokesperson the confusion stemmed from errors in Ars Technica's original report. An FAA spokesperson confirmed that, saying, "The interpretive rule we issued only dealt with hobbyist/recreational drones. The Ars Technica story was inaccurate."

Original story follows…

Word back in March was that the skies were getting friendlier for Amazon's proposed delivery drones, but the US Federal Aviation Agency has just shot that idea down.

A federal judge for the US National Transportation Safety Board had ruled that the FAA actually has no authority to make laws regarding "model aircraft" like the ones Amazon wants to use - not without public input, at least - but the agency is fighting back.

In a filing published in the US government's Federal Register on June 23, the FAA said Amazon is still barred from unleashing its delivery drone army, regardless of what any judge has said.

And in the meantime the regulators are appealing that March ruling.

Closing a loophole

As has been pointed out before, the FAA has considered using drones and other "model aircraft" for commercial purposes illegal since at least 2007.

That includes "delivering of packages to people for a fee," which might seem to exclude delivering packages to Amazon Prime subscribers, who pay a membership fee but get packages shipped for free.

That loophole won't hold water, though, as a footnote in the FAA's June 23 filing notes that "if an individual offers free shipping in association with a purchase or other offer, FAA would construe the shipping to be in furtherance of a business purpose, and thus, the operation would not fall within the statutory requirement of recreation or hobby purpose."

Bummer for Amazon, but it's not like the online retailer is the only commercial entity affected by these regulations.

Those pesky drone stunt pilots

The FAA also singled out such acts as using drones to monitor crops, photojournalism using drones, using them to photograph commercial property, and professional model aircraft stunt-flying (seriously?) as against the law.

It's not like Amazon didn't see these troubles coming - "putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance the technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations," reads the Amazon Prime Air website - but the back-and-forth is at least interesting to watch.

Meanwhile we've asked Amazon for its official comment on the FAA's latest move, and we'll update here if we get a statement.

Via Ars Technica

Michael Rougeau

Michael Rougeau is a former freelance news writer for TechRadar. Studying at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Northeastern University, Michael has bylines at Kotaku, 1UP, G4, Complex Magazine, Digital Trends, GamesRadar, GameSpot, IFC, Animal New York, @Gamer, Inside the Magic, Comic Book Resources, Zap2It, TabTimes, GameZone, Cheat Code Central, Gameshark, Gameranx, The Industry, Debonair Mag, Kombo, and others.

Micheal also spent time as the Games Editor for, and was the managing editor at GameSpot before becoming an Animal Care Manager for Wags and Walks.