When Amazon first introduced its plans to create a drone delivery solution, the company knew it was an ambitious plan that was going to take a lot of time. Now that Amazon has had time to refine its business plan and look at the bigger picture, the company is looking to accelerate the integration of its delivery drones by developing a shared airspace. Gur Kimchi, vice president for Amazon’s Prime Air, spoke about the company’s idea of a shared airspace at the AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2016 conference in New Orleans today.
“At some point, the airspace will get tense, we will get conflict. We want to agree on a model that supports this scale before we have an issue,” he said.
Kimchi sees drone applications ranging from video and photography, to inspection, mapping, surveying, emergency support, search and rescue, and more. The problem is, they will all need a place to fly. He describes Amazon’s plans as the next generation for low-altitude flight. Under Amazon’s plan, the airspace will be split up into five categories: A no-fly zone, a high-speed transit zone, a low-speed localized traffic zone, and a predefined low-risk zone.
The no-fly zone will be between 400 to 500 feet, where approved general aviation and commercial aviation will be allowed to fly. The high-speed transit drone will exist at 200 to 400 feet, where drones like Amazon Prime Air will be able to fly; these drones will have to be equipped with sense and avoid technology as well as communication systems. The low-speed localized traffic will be between 0 to 200 feet and consist of mapping, inspection and surveying drone operations. The redefined low-risk location will consist of recreational drone operators who want to fly drones for fun. They will be required to stay within a geofence.
In addition, Kimchi proposes drones and drone operators adopt federated traffic controllers in order for them to communicate with each other, and provide visibility and oversight. For instance, if a drone is delivering a package where another drone is already operating, the delivery drone will be able to communicate to the other drone about its landing.
The point of Amazon’s plan is to enable the safe integration of drones at low altitudes, simplify the airspace, and provide a comprehensive model that works for all applications. Amazon plans to demonstrate its shared airspace in constrained areas at first so it can demonstrate and prove its safety.