We may soon start seeing drones delivering Amazon packages in your neighborhood. Or at least someone, somewhere, will.
Amazon released a commercial over the weekend for its Prime Air delivery service, in which British automotive journalist Jeremy Clarkson promises delivery by drone of packages in less than 30 minutes in the "not too distant future."
The deployment of these drones still hinges on regulatory approvals, which in the U.S. tend to lag behind other countries. So when Amazon releases an ad saying its drones are ready to go, the company might mean they're ready to go in, say, Canada.
"We will deploy when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision. We're excited about this technology and one day using it to deliver packages to customers around the world in 30 minutes or less," reads a statement from Amazon.
A new drone prototype from the company weighs 55 pounds and can carry packages weighing up to 5 pounds. This keeps the drones within the weight range outlined in proposed FAA drone regulations.
But when it comes to regulations already on the books, other countries are more easygoing than the U.S. The Associated Press reported in 2014 that countries in Europe had by that time granted more than 1,000 commercial permits to drone operators for inspections and photography, and Australia had granted permits for similar uses. Japan has been using unmanned aerial vehicles to spray crops for more than 10 years; and Canada last year expanded its drone regulations to allow for flights of drones weighing up to 55 pounds provided the drones followed certain other restrictions.
MIT Professor Nicholas Roy, who has worked on drone technology for Google, told AP last year "there are issues and constraints that may allow other countries to overtake the U.S. both in developing the next generation of UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology and in training the next generation of UAV engineers."
The FAA has begun granting exemptions to allow companies to operate drones in the U.S., where regulations remain unclear. Among those permits was one allowing Amazon to conduct test flights in the country.