3D Robotics

3689611333?profile=originalWe've been working on this for a while, but I'm delighted the news is finally out. From USA Today:

Amazon recently banded together with several makers of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to create a coalition to speed federal action. And the e-tailer is also buttressing its lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

"Amazon Prime Air is participating in several groups ... that share Congress' goal of getting small UAVs flying commercially in the United States safely and soon," said Paul Misener, the company's vice president of global public policy.

Such efforts are needed because the advance of commercial drones covers a swath of federal agencies including the Federal Aviation Administration, which governs airspace, and the Federal Communications Commission, with oversight of communications frequencies drones would use. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also has rules in the works regarding privacy.

"This is uncharted territory," says Chris Anderson, co-founder of drone maker 3D Robotics. His firm joined Amazon, DJI Innovations and Parrot in founding the coalition. The group aims to represent commercial uses of drones, establish a code of conduct and educate the public about benefits of the technology, he says.

Amazon's interest "lets people realize how big it can be," Anderson says. "They have a well-established presence in Washington and they were able to kick-start the mechanics of this coalition so we could quickly join and get moving."

Drones are coming. The FAA has estimated that as many as 7,500 small, commercial drones may be in use in the U.S. by 2018, assuming regulations are in place. Globally, drone spending is expected to increase from $6.4 billion this year to $11.5 billion annually a decade from now, as projected by aerospace and defense industry research firm the Teal Group.

Both Amazon and the new coalition have retained Washington, D.C., law firm Akin Gump to assist in lobbying efforts. Already, Amazon is among nearly two dozen other companies that have sought exemptions from the FAA to begin tests with drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and fly below 400 feet.

In its filing to the FAA, Amazon said that so far it has only been able to test its drones inside its Seattle R&D lab or in other countries. Its goal is to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less via the rotor-powered flying machines. "One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks," wrote Amazon's v Misener in the filing.

The FAA is determining the best way to respond to Amazon's petition, said FAA spokesman Les Dorr.

Drone potential goes far beyond package delivery into such things as providing wireless broadband Internet in the Third World and monitoring areas where endangered species are hunted.

"A number of companies are looking at getting into philanthropic purposes," says Michael Drobac, one of the lobbyists at Akin Gump working on the issues. "They're also looking at recreational uses, mapping and aerial photography — the possibilities are limitless."

Regulatory support for testing and deployment will help businesses harness the potential and help unlock the job-creation potential of the technology, said Ben Gielow, general counsel for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a non-profit technology advocacy group.

Amazon has hired Gielow, who will leave the Arlington, Va.-based association next month to join Amazon's Prime Air public policy group.

Congress has charged the FAA with developing rules to test and integrate dronesinto the airspace. But a report that Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin Scovel delivered to Congress in February said the FAA will unlikely meet a September 2015 deadline set by Congress.

Companies need a "safe sandbox" to begin testing applications, Anderson says.

Eventually, drones could be a boon to law enforcement and public safety, helping assess crime situations and natural disasters such as fires, Akin Gump's Drobac said.

And, yes, drones will help with the more mundane functions. "I envision a world where I walk outside and one drone delivers diapers for my children and another shows up with my pizza," he said. "I have a vision of the world that is very good."

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  • I think there are always two sides of the same coin.

    1. Together you definitely have enough power to affect public perception and law creation, this is the cool side.

    2. This sounds to me like cartel agreement, which can have negative influence on market competition

  • Chris,

    This is definitely a good thing however I do have one question... is this coalition going to assist in challenging the FAAs ruling which will go into affect and become common law by August 25th if not challenged in the court of law?

  • Chris,

    This is great news. It's long been said that the only ones truly likely to be able to get commerical regs passed through in any reasonable amount of time are the big players, and this certainly fits that category.

    However, I would ask that you please use your influence to look out for "the little guys" as well. Commercial UAV use comes in all forms, including small businesses without the power to fight for their right to fly. 

    Hopefully this will mean good things for all of us!

  • This is great news, I posted my CHECKLIST for beginners and advanced flyers at that link on DIYDrones.com before, please look it over. I will collaborate with anyone for a checklist effort. I am currently working on my Certified Flight Instructor, I passed the written test 2 years ago and let it lapse. Opps terrible mistake...

  • it would be great if the FAA will leave a door open for ​​Amazon delivery propose!!!

    I do not understand why people have to make such a great effort to prevent the government institutions to ruin the economy of their countries.

  • Moderator

    We used to point people at the RCAPA guidelines http://rcapa.net/guidelines/ not sure if they are upto date.

    Its still looking like 2021 is the minimum start over there.

  • Hi Chris (and All),

    Although I am concerned that Amazons primary "application" still seems to me to be one of the least likely to be practical, safe or "legal" I do see that this alliance could be of considerable benefit to us all.

    Clearly 3DR, DJI and Parrot have considerable interest in reasonable legislation for both the hobby and commercial markets.

    And without some significant representation that seems unlikely to occur.

    On a more immediate front, I think that one of the best things we (DIYDrones) could do is put together a really slick but short 1 page brochure of responsible and safe flying for our hobby purposes.

    And it would help us a lot if the members of the consortium could agree on and support that endeavor, perhaps even by including a copy of the "Safe and Responsible Flying" page with each of their flying products.

    And perhaps use it for public and political promotion as an obvious example of acting in the public's and government's best interests.

    Best Regards,


  • I spoke to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy years ago. I gave them an unvarnished synopsis of what was happening (and not happening) and strategies to circumvent the canned goods they would be treated to by the FAA.

    This administration micromanages D.C. and even now has put the brakes on airspace integration in an effort to quell apprehensions about privacy, etc. The WH pushed for the small UAS NPRM to drop after the November midterm elections.

    The non-profit advocacy group spiked language for inclusion in H.R. 658 for a less than 4 lbs commercial exemption. That would have allowed us to be already in the air circa 2012. Going to the DoD vendor lobby folks for help is folly. They have actively been sandbagging and fighting progress on the issue for years, all at the behest of the Big 6 U.S. military UAS vendors. A lot of money was made and big salaries and bonuses paid. 

    The airspace integration problem could have been nipped in the bud years ago for a few thousand dollars.

  • I hope some improvements in government regulation on UAVs come up in the U.S. soon so our copycat Philippine government can again copy it.
  • I hope the benefits of being aligned with Amazon outweigh the negatives.  The Amazon UAS use-case is one that scares a lot of people -- much more so than the thought of farmers checking crops, or real estate agents taking photos of houses.

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