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Senate to hold hearing to discuss Amazon package delivery drones

 

A Senate committee is planning to hold a hearing to discuss the potential impact of integrating drones into civilian life, on the heels of Amazon’s announcement it wants to use the technology to deliver packages.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., confirmed to Fox News the hearing is scheduled for 2014, and said it was planned before Amazon unveiled its so-called “Octocopters” Sunday night.

“Amazon’s plans for using drones to deliver packages is just one example of the potential this technology offers consumers, and a reflection of the ingenuity of American business,” said Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. “As we move forward toward integrating drones into civilian life and capitalizing on the economic opportunities they offer, we must make certain that these aircrafts meet rigorous safety and privacy standards.”

Rockefeller said the hearing will focus on the possible economic benefits and the possible risks of drones in U.S. airspace.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the drones in an interview with CBS’ "60 Minutes," and claimed that the drones would not be ready to take flight for four or five years. However, after the interview aired, Amazon released a statement promising that "Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today."

"I know this looks like science fiction. It's not," Bezos said in the CBS interview with Charlie Rose. "It drops the package. You come and get your package and we can do half-hour deliveries."

Federal Aviation Administration regulations currently prohibit the kind of flights Bezos proposes that Prime Air “Octocopters” undertake. However, rule changes could come as early as 2015.

Bezos said that the vehicles currently being tested have a range of ten miles and can carry products under five pounds, which he estimates make up 86 percent of Amazon's inventory.

In urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population," Bezos said.  "This is all electric, it’s very green, it’s better than driving trucks around."

The CEO also admitted that the drones required more safety testing, noting "This thing can't land on somebody's head while they're walking around their neighborhood."

Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report

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