Amazon to expand drone delivery service after clearing FAA hurdle

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  • Amazon cleared a key regulatory hurdle that will enable it to expand drone deliveries.
  • The FAA has allowed Amazon to fly drones out of sight of a ground spotter, enabling it to fly farther distances.
  • Amazon's drone program, called Prime Air, has struggled to get off the ground since Jeff Bezos first laid out his vision for the service more than a decade ago.

Amazon said Thursday it has received federal approval to fly its delivery drones longer distances without the need for ground spotters, clearing a key regulatory hurdle and opening the door for the company to scale the service to more parts of the U.S.

Previously, Amazon was required to fly its drones within a pilot's view. The Federal Aviation Administration's approval allows Amazon to conduct flights beyond an observer's line of sight.

The company said it will expand its delivery area in College Station, Texas, one of the cities where it has been conducting tests.

Amazon received approval after it developed a collision-avoidance technology onboard the drones, enabling them to "detect and avoid obstacles in the air." The technology has been a key tool for other drone delivery companies, such as Zipline, looking to operate beyond visual line of sight, or BVLOS.

The e-commerce giant's drone delivery service, Prime Air, has struggled since Amazon founder Jeff Bezos laid out his vision for the program more than a decade ago.

In 2022, Amazon said it would begin testing deliveries in College Station, Texas, about 100 miles northwest of Houston, and Lockeford, a town south of Sacramento where the program was initially met with some skepticism by residents.

Prime Air was hit by layoffs last year as part of broader job cuts at Amazon. The group also encountered regulatory setbacks and executive departures. Last month, Amazon said it would end its drone operations in California and begin deliveries near Phoenix, Arizona, later this year.

It is also eyeing further expansion to other U.S. cities in 2025. The company has said it aims to deliver 500 million packages by drone per year by the end of the decade.

WATCH: Amazon's drone struggles

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