Amazon Employee Flew a Drone around the Space Needle

Jul 25, 2014 10:06 AM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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Despite Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' ambition to deliver packages by drone, using model aircraft for business is still illegal, and a recent caper by an Amazon employee probably isn't helping the online retail giant's cause.

Seattle authorities say that a man who works for Amazon sent his recently purchased drone for a spin around the Space Needle on Tuesday, prompting security to call 911, a local outlet reported. The man, whose name has not been included in reports, said he was visiting from out of state and had recently bought the drone.

He showed police the video he had shot with the drone, which is described as a "white, quad-propeller aerial vehicle, equipped with a camera," discrediting eyewitness reports that the drone had actually crashed into the Space Needle.

The police found no damage to the top of the Space Needle and didn't file charges, simply telling the man not to fly the drone in public spaces.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a memo last month essentially to remind people that drones used for business purposes are still banned, something that throws a wrench into Amazon's plans for delivering packages that way.

Titling the memo "Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft," the FAA pointed out that using drones for commercial purposes has been illegal since 2007 and remains so.

Seattle-based Amazon filed an official request with the FAA earlier this month to be allowed to test delivery drones in the area. In the request, Amazon said the package delivery system should be tested because "it advances Congress' goal of getting commercial sUAS flying in the United States safely and soon. It is a necessary step towards realizing the consumer benefits of Amazon Prime Air."

The Prime Air unmanned aircraft project is in the early stages in Amazon's research and development labs and could happen in the next four or five years, Bezos told the Associated Press in December.  

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