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Amazon seeks air space for drones
Jul '15
Courtesy: Amazon Prime Air
Courtesy: Amazon Prime Air
Global e-commerce giant Amazon has sought airspace from 200 feet to 400 feet for its autonomous drones, mainly for delivery purposes in the US.

In a paper, Amazon has described its position on the design, management and operations of the airspace for the safe and efficient integration of low-altitude small unmanned aircraft systems.

Amazon said anticipates this model will be refined over time, and will work in close collaboration with public and private industry on the development of an approach that is safe and efficient for all types of operations.

The e-commerce major claims the development of an air traffic system that fully enables the safe operations of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) or drones in civil airspace, particularly highly-automated vehicles operating beyond line of sight (BLOS), is essential for realizing the enormous benefits of this technology in a safe and responsible manner. A good place to start in creating such a system is to clarify the use of the airspace, says the paper.

The majority of airspace integration efforts over the past decade have focused on integrating medium or large unmanned aircraft systems into non-segregated civil airspace, i.e. airspace above 500 feet where most civil and military aviation activities occur. However, given the rapidly growing small unmanned aircraft industry, Amazon said it believes the safest and most efficient environment for sUAS operations - from basic recreational users to sophisticated BLOS fleets - is in segregated civil airspace1 below 500 feet. Segregating the airspace will buffer sUAS operations from current aviation operations. It will also buffer lesser-equipped vehicles from highly-equipped vehicles able to safely perform BLOS missions.

Amazon has proposed that airspace below 200 feet, or the 'Low-Speed Localized Traffic' area, be reserved for terminal non-transit operations such as surveying, videography and inspection, and operations for lesser-equipped vehicles, such as ones without sophisticated sense-and avoid (SAA) technology. Those lesser-equipped vehicles will not have access to certain airspace in this zone, such as over heavily-populated areas.

A 'high-speed' transit space, between 200 and 400 ft, will be designated for well-equipped vehicles as determined by the relevant performance standards and rules. The airspace between 400 and 500 feet will serve as a permanent 'No Fly Zone' in which sUAS operators will not be permitted to fly, except in emergencies. Finally, this airspace model will also encompass 'Predefined Low Risk Locations.' Altitude and equipment restrictions in these locations will be established in advance by aviation authorities. These Predefined Low Risk Locations will include areas like designated Academy of Model Aeronautics airfields, where members will meet pre-established parameters for altitude and equipage.

Amazon believes this segregated airspace model will enable safer overall operations by providing a framework where airspace access is tied to vehicle capability, and by buffering sUAS operations from current aviation operations.

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