Amazon teased one of the most amazing concepts we’ve seen in years recently when it showed off its “Amazon Prime Air” drones — little flying machines that may one day zip through your city to deliver packages at your house. The reveal has mainly been viewed as a marketing spectacle since Amazon can’t legally do that right now, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is going to start working on laws that may soon make Prime Air a reality.
The FAA announced Monday that it will begin testing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, commonly referred to as drones) in Nevada in an effort to work toward integrating them with U.S. airspace. “Nevada has been on the leading edge of aerospace flight testing for almost 70 years,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Monday. “Today, the state continues that tradition by contributing to the safe and efficient integration of unmanned aircraft into the U.S. aviation system.”
Testing will take place in Mercury, Nevada at the private Desert Rock Airport, and the FAA will work with one drone, the ScanEagle from Insitu, the FAA said. The drone will fly no higher than 3,000 feet in the air during the tests. “Initial flights will verify that a UAS can operate safely at the airport,” the FAA explained. There’s a lot of research that needs to be done, including setting rules for unmanned aircraft, setting standards for training pilots who will operate drones in U.S. airspace, safety research and more, but this is a solid first step in the right direction.
Nevada is just one state that has a drone test site, five others also received approval back in December. Texas, North Dakota, Alaska, New York and Virginia have also been approved to open drone testing facilities as predetermined locations.