Amazon Taps Ex-Boeing Exec to Helm Drone Delivery

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Amazon is bringing a veteran aviation exec on board to run its drone-delivery subsidiary as the retail giant continues to push for 30-minute aerial shipping.

On Monday, CNET reported David Carbon, former VP of 787 operations for Boeing, will lead Prime Air, Amazon’s UAV-delivery service. He replaces Gur Kimchi, who headed the division for the past seven years.

“We’re very excited David Carbon joined Amazon to lead the next phase of our mission to bring 30-minute delivery by drones to customers,” Brad Porter, vice president of robotics at Amazon, told CNET.

“David has over 20 years of experience bringing ground-breaking aerospace innovations to scale safely and reliably, and we look forward to his contributions as we scale up our manufacturing and customer delivery operations.”

Under Kimchi, Prime Air advocated for a national drone-integration plan for air traffic. During AUVSI’s Xponential Conference in 2016, Kimchi laid out a plan to create an organized, layered structure of airspace combined with a system of “federated” traffic controllers. The system would allow aircraft of all types to communicate with controllers and each other.

Drone delivery is still a nascent proposition and routine shipping still has to fly over federal regulatory hurdles. However, the FAA last month released a proposal that could pave the way for commercial drone delivery.

A notice of policy will allow the FAA flexibility to create new types of certificates based on specific functions as drone tech evolves. The policy acknowledges the growth of drone delivery as an example. If approved, the proposal will create opportunity for several companies looking to establish commercial drone delivery, including Amazon, UPS, Alphabet Wing and Uber.

The latest Prime Air drone has a range of 15 miles and can carry packages weighing under 5 pounds. Last year, the FAA approved a certificate for Prime Air to fly R&D missions of the MK27 drone in authorized flight areas.

Amazon will likely face a measure of scrutiny concerning Carbon’s hiring. CNET senior reporter Ben Fox Rubin notes Carbon resigned from Boeing last year in light of a New York Times investigation that unveiled “shoddy workmanship and weak oversight at the South Carolina airplane factory he was running.”

“The Times found these problems existed for a decade at the plant and continued after Carbon took over in 2016,” Rubin added.



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