AI News, Drone Control: Here’s How Amazon Thinks Drones Should Fit Into U.S. Airspace

Drone Control: Here’s How Amazon Thinks Drones Should Fit Into U.S. Airspace

Create a drone zone—a dedicated piece of airspace for drones—and separate them within that space by speed and capabilities.

The company would then like to see the FAA designate the airspace from 200 to 400 feet as a fast lane, reserved for the higher speed, longer distance drone travel, with below 200 feet for slower, more local traffic.

At the bottom is the most basic hobbyist drone with no automatic capabilities, though the operator can receive via smart phone and act on general alerts about traffic and other hazards in the area.

Making it all work, Kimchi says, will require more automation of general air traffic control, standards that make sure all drones can communicate with each other and the Internet, classes of equipment that clearly define what drones can fly where, and drones designed to be safe and secure.

Amazon provides new details on its plan for a drone superhighway in the sky

When I arrived in San Jose last night, the newspaper on the front desk at the hotel had this headline splashed across the front page: 'Drones Putting Lives at Risk.'

At least five times this year, fire departments trying to battle wildfires in California were unable to fly their helicopters close enough to assist teams on the ground because small drones flown by ordinary citizens were in the airspace capturing footage of the blaze.

Amazon’s proposal, which is in line with similar ideas floated by NASA and Google, would create a slow lane for local traffic below 200 feet and a fast lane for long-distance transport between 200 and 400 feet.

Amazons Plan to Integrate Drones Into Airspace

“Airspace is a shared resource – this is really important.  Once you take off and fly, you are sharing the air,” says Kimchi. “What’s important is to have a model that is heterogeneous… that enables all applications.” Amazon’s plan to integrate high- and low-altitude airspace is both simple in concept and ambitious in implementation.

 The company proposed an organized, layered structure of airspace combined with a system of “federated” traffic controllers to allow aircraft of all types to communicate with controllers and each other. The concept would give a regulatory authority—the Federal Aviation Administration in the case of the U.S.—overarching control of the system.

When asked what it will take to prove that drones can be safely integrated to the public?  “If you fly commercial and the weather is bad, there is a problem, and there is no visibility, who is really flying the plane?  We trust automation every day in other ways – we have to prove that drones are just as safe…over time, we’ll get there.”

Amazon Lays Out Its Vision for a Sky Thronging with Delivery Drones

In 2013 the company revealed it was working on a plan to use drones to deliver packages to its customers—something impossible under existing laws that forbid commercial use of drones.

A “high speed transit zone” between 200 and 400 feet would be reserved for drones traveling large distances, such as from an Amazon warehouse to a customer’s home, he said.

And they would be required to check in with an online database that provides information on no-fly zones and permanent hazards, for example, radio masts, as well as live information such as the movements of other drones.

That system would also be able to force drones to change course or land in emergency situations, for example to allow an air rescue helicopter to pass through.

Some drones with simple, slow and low-altitude missions, for example, surveying a farmer’s field, could survive just by using that database, and asking a human to take over in an emergency situation, said Kimchi.

An Amazon drone delivering a package in a city, for example, might take action to avoid a flock of seagulls it detected with its sensors and file a report with the online hazards database.

The most influential effort is a NASA project that will build and test a series of systems for drone traffic control but is far from testing anything close to Amazon’s vision for drones flocking over urban areas.

The first test taking place next month with a dozen companies participating will be focused on the safe operation of drones over unpopulated areas of farmland or water.