Skip to Content

U.K. Signs a Deal with Amazon to Test Delivery Drones

The British government has agreed to let Amazon test delivery drones, while U.S. regulations still forbid it.

Retail giant Amazon has partnered with the British government to test drones for package delivery—a major coup for the company, which is still forbidden from testing certain drone technologies in the U.S.

In June, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration released updated rules governing drone use that opened American skies up to limited use of commercial drones. Crucially for Amazon, however, that did not include automated flights guided by GPS, or flights in which a drone leaves an operator’s line of sight.

CEO Jeff Bezos has made no bones about his bullish stance on delivering packages by drone. In 2013, he went on 60 Minutes and talked about drones as the future of the company. But the firm’s massive delivery network remains mostly earthbound, and Amazon has railed against what it sees as the FAA’s sluggish response to technological change.

During its announcement last month, FAA chief Michael Huerta called the rules “just our first step” and promised to review some of the technologies Amazon is interested in deploying, like the ability to automatically sense and avoid obstacles.

The company, it would seem, is tired of waiting. Though the New York Times reports that Amazon has no plans to reduce its drone research in the U.S., it has set up drone testing programs in the Netherlands and Canada.

In announcing its deal with the Civil Aviation Authority, the U.K.’s version of the FAA, Amazon said the partnership “brings Amazon closer to our goal of using drones to safely deliver parcels in 30 minutes to customers in the U.K. and elsewhere around the world.” That’s more than can be said, unfortunately, for American shoppers, who are looking forward to the day when their newly bought goodies will descend from the heavens.

(Read more: New York Times, Fortune, “Sorry, Shoppers: Delivery Drones Might Not Fly for a While,” “New FAA Rules Have Commercial Drones Primed for Launch”)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.