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June 26, 2017 10:15 AM, EDT
Amazon Vision of Deliveries by Drone Gets Boost in FAA Measure
Amazon.com

Amazon.com’s bid to deliver goods via drone directly to a consumer’s doorstep would get a boost under aviation legislation proposed June 22.

The bipartisan Senate legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration directs the Department of Transportation to create a carrier certificate allowing for package deliveries by drones, according to a summary. That provision is one of several in the bill aimed at boosting regulatory approval and oversight for drones.

Companies including Amazon and Google parent Alphabet Inc. are racing to develop drones capable of delivering parcels to customers in spite of restrictions on where drones can fly. Amazon in December made its first drone delivery — a television streaming device and a bag of popcorn — to a customer in the United Kingdom, where the company is testing drone deliveries in part because of the strict U.S. regulations.

The FAA measure, unveiled by the top Democrats and Republicans that oversee airline policy, includes restrictions on airlines bumping passengers from flights after they have boarded. It also would keep air-traffic control within the FAA, putting it at odds with a U.S. House proposal to transfer the operations to a private, nonprofit entity.

“Our legislation focuses on enhancing safety, improving air travel for the traveling public, and reforms to help bring the future of aviation closer to reality,” John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, said in a statement. Bill Nelson of Florida, the top Democrat on the panel, co-sponsored the package, as did Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Establishing an air carrier certificate for drone deliveries would clear one hurdle for package delivery, while others remain. Current FAA regulations restrict most drone flights directly over people, although the agency is working on rules to broaden such flights.

In a statement on its website, the Commercial Drone Alliance said it was “pleased that provisions intended to expand commercial drone operations have been included” in the FAA authorization bill, adding it was reviewing details of the legislation. The group represents companies that want to use drones commercially, including Time Warner Inc.’s CNN.