Just one short month ago, it looks like Amazon's drone delivery dreams were dashed. But today, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted the company an "experimental airworthiness certificate." Does this mean your Amazon Prime will come from the sky now? Not even close.
Basically, all the FAA is letting Amazon do is research and development. (This, after the company threatened to take its drone R&D abroad.) There are quite a few caveats, as well. Here's what the FAA said in its press release—emphasis ours:
Under the provisions of the certificate, all flight operations must be conducted at 400 feet or below during daylight hours in visual meteorological conditions. The UAS must always remain within visual line-of-sight of the pilot and observer. The pilot actually flying the aircraft must have at least a private pilot's certificate and current medical certification.
The certificate also requires Amazon to provide monthly data to the FAA.
So the fact that Amazon won't actually be able to deliver anything with its delivery drones remains. Unless, of course, the delivery happens to be a few hundred feet away. That said, the FAA restrictions pretty much follow the proposed rules for commercial drones announced last month. Based on that bit about the data, though, it sounds like Amazon's R&D will also serve as the FAA's R&D since all of the flight data will go back to the agency for analysis.
Update 3/24: Oh, and apparently this experimental airworthiness certificate only applied to one specific Amazon drone prototype which is already obsolete. Amazon's hoping that the FAA will approve R&D on a broader scale, but until then it'll keep on testing outside the US.