In a post here the other day ("Regulation Lags Technology") we noted the hassles Amazon was facing in getting U.S. government approval to test drones for package delivery. Now it emerges, in an article in the Guardian (link via Politico Playbook), the company has set up a test site in Canada, "barely 2000 feet from the U.S. border." From the Guardian:
The company's decision to set up camp in Canada, after frustration in its attempts to persuade US regulators to allow it to launch its drones in Washington state, takes Amazon's quarrel with the federal government to a new level. Last week a senior Amazon executive appeared before a US Senate subcommittee and warned that there would be consequences if federal regulators continued to act as a drag on its ambitions to launch a drone delivery service called Prime Air....
The contrast between the relative rigidity of the FAA's approach to drone testing and the relatively relaxed regulatory regime in Canada is startling. Under the Canadian system, Amazon has been granted a virtual carte blanche regarding its entire fleet of drones within its designated airspace, having gone through a licensing process that took just three weeks.
By comparison, it takes the FAA many months to grant approval. Sources familiar with the process told the Guardian the US regulator insists on an initial 23-page application, a review of 75 pages of further documentation and a four-hour presentation at FAA headquarters followed by a three-hour site visit, together with ongoing reporting and record-keeping obligations.
This is a great example of the framework of "exit, voice, and loyalty" that I wrote about the other day. Amazon tried "voice" unsuccessfully; now it's trying "exit."