American e-commerce giant Amazon has reportedly approached the UK government over the possibility to test its drone deliveries in the UK, saying the US aerospace was ‘over-regulated’.
The UK, transport minister Robert Goodwill said he had met with Amazon representatives recently to discuss the subject.
"I had some people from Amazon coming to see me the other day; they want to replace van deliveries with drone deliveries, and they can't do any trials in the US because they're over-regulated,” Goodwill said at an at a press conference discussing driverless cars.
"So my favourite word is deregulation, and we need to make sure that wherever you are in the world, and if you want to innovate and you want to invest in this sort of technology, come to the UK because we're here to help you."
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week approved Amazon’s request to trial one of its drones in the outdoor environment – a major milestone in Amazon’s efforts to launch a drone delivery service, dubbed the Amazon Prime Air.
Amazon's Paul Misener wrote in a letter to the FAA in December: "Without approval of our testing in the United States, we will be forced to continue expanding our Prime Air R&D footprint abroad."
The FAA released its draft rules guiding commercial use of drones in the US in February. The regulations, requiring commercial drones to be flown only within the sight of the operator, would most likely prevent many applications including parcel deliveries. The draft rules, however, are currently under revision and will be subject to public consultation.
The line of sight requirement applies in the UK as well, as specified in the UK Civil Aviation Authority guidelines. To comply with this requirement, delivery firms would only be able to use drones within a 1,600ft distance from the warehouses.
Earlier this week, Warwickshire-based delivery FPS Distribution announced it has completed what it considered the UK’s first commercial drone delivery, shipping a belt tensioner aboard a modified off-the-shelf unmanned aircraft from its centre in Sheffield to a local customer.
On Tuesday, Amazon criticized the FAA for failing to provide support for commercial drone testing, saying the US is falling behind other countries in the development due to the prohibitive measures.
Chinese internet giant Alibaba is also currently carrying out its own private trials of drone technology for deliveries.