Amazon wants sky-high drone superhighway

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Amazon wants sky-high drone superhighway

Pushes for 200ft airspace to be allocated to delivery fleet.

Online retail giant Amazon wants a 400ft (122m) high chunk of the sky above the US dedicated to a drone 'superhighway' to carry out commercial operations like parcel delivery.

The company unveiled a regulatory proposal today that would see Amazon's drones fly between 200ft and 400ft. That section of sky and below is predominantly unregulated but is not open to drone flight.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently allows limited drone use by the private sector, as long as flights remain within line of sight.

It gave Amazon approval to test its Prime Air drone delivery service on private rural land in Washington state earlier this year.

But to get the delivery drones up and running, Amazon needs approval for automated flight beyond line of sight.

Amazon is developing drones that can fly at speeds of 50 miles per hour (80 kph), operate autonomously and sense and avoid objects. Google is also testing out drone-flown deliveries under its secretive Project Wing in Queensland.

According to its proposal, Amazon wants the first 200ft from the ground dedicated to low-speed operations, such as agricultural users and hobbyists.

The next band - 200ft to 400ft - would be a "high-speed transit" space allocated to operations like Amazon's Prime Air drones.

Drones flying in that band would be operated by a centralised system on the ground rather than by individual pilots. Human operators could remove the drones from the air in an emergency situation.

The final chunk - from 400ft to the 500ft limit - would be a no-fly buffer zone to ensure enough space between drones and the regulated airspace in which planes fly.

Last month NASA revealed it was working to develop a control system for drone traffic as commercial usage of the devices explodes.

An air traffic control system for drones would prevent the low-flying hardware from colliding with people and objects, NASA said at the time.

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