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FAA approves drone research flights for Amazon

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week gave Amazon.com approval to conduct outdoor research flights to test out its proposed drone-delivery service, called Prime Air.

In a letter to Amazon, the FAA laid out the restrictions around Amazon's approved testing. For instance, the company must use a specific Amazon-manufactured, multi-rotor small unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Its weight when flying cannot exceed 55 pounds, including whatever it is carrying. The drone cannot fly faster than 87 knots (100 miles per hour), and it must be visible to the pilot at all times. Drone operations cannot be conducted at night, and the pilot must have either an airline transport, commercial, private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate.

Earlier this year, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told CBS News that the regulatory framework developing around drone delivery "is going a little slower than anticipated."

That's going to be the long pole in the tent, but we always knew that," Bezos said. "The FAA has their hands full trying to figure out how to regulate drones."

The FAA's approval of Amazon's research could pave the way for other drone services, in sectors like agriculture, civil engineering, journalism or entertainment.