WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
said on Friday it had approved the first drone flight beyond the
operator's sight line, a major advance for retailers like
Amazon.com Inc seeking to speed up deliveries by drone.
Drone flights are currently required to remain in the operating
team's sight to spot and avoid aircraft and other obstacles.
The flight this week by the University of Alaska Fairbanks over
an oil pipeline was part of a joint program with the FAA to test
"beyond-visual-line-of-sight," or BVLOS, flights in which drones
automatically perform tasks that would otherwise be done
Such flights can travel farther than the less than two miles for
in-sight flights, depending on visibility and drone size.
Amazon, which has been using drones for UK deliveries since
2016, said in June that it expected to start doing so in the
United States "in months."
While the drone this week did not fly over people, drone flights
used for delivery would require permission to fly over people.
Cathy Cahill, director of the university's drone program, said
BVLOS flights are especially important for Alaska because the
lack of roads in remote areas makes it difficult to complete
many vital missions.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks is focused on testing drone
use for medical supply delivery and pipeline surveillance,
The joint program advances the industry toward the reliable
integration of drones into the airspace, FAA acting
Administrator Dan Elwell said in a statement.
(Reporting by Bryan Pietsch; Editing by Richard Chang)
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