WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation has given Apple, Uber, FedEx, and others approval for pilot airborne drone projects in 10 cities across the U.S. Noticeably absent are Amazon and other retail-specific drone delivery operators, according to The Guardian.
Amazon, which reportedly applied for approval to deliver packages in New York via drone, issued a statement calling the decision “unfortunate.”
Approved locations include cities in Oklahoma, California, Virginia, Kansas, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, and Alaska.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has said data gathered from the pilot projects will help form the regulatory framework for drone flights. Drone uses will range from mapping and aircraft inspection to mosquito tracking and food delivery.
Insiders say the initial excitement over drone delivery of retail products in the U.S. has faded during the past couple of years due to regulatory red tape. Some have estimated commercial drone delivery in the U.S. would occur in 2020, but others doubt the projection.
Chao said dozens more projects could be approved in coming months, either with new waivers or under existing rules. A rigorous process was cited in conjunction with Amazon’s rejection, but deputy transportation secretary Jeff Rosen said there were “no losers.”
Amazon has worked with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on policy before and has tested its drone technology around the world.
President Trump, who has been critical of Amazon, launched the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program last year. A total of149 bids were drawn from locales looking to host flights at night, flights over people, and other drone operations that are currently prohibited under U.S. regulations. The winners are expected to gain a head start at the billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs the young industry expects to create.