Amazon has been investing a lot of efforts when it comes to future of logistics, hyper delivery models, and an unmanned retail store. Now it seems that the e-commerce giant is testing experimental wireless communications technology based on mobile devices and fixed base stations across rural Washington and Seattle. Amazon has applied for clearance from FCC and the filings hint at a new wireless communication system.
Apart from that, the filings do not reveal anything much in particular about the project and instead just mentions that the project involves prototypes which are designed to support “innovative communications capabilities and functionalities.” The project has its own inking with the Amazon Air since in the filings it has been mentioned that Neil Woodward, a retired NASA astronaut currently serving as senior manager for Amazon Prime Air is the primary point of contact.
It’s not hard to speculate that the project has something to do with Amazon Air, perhaps a new communication system used to control Amazon’s delivery drones. However, considering the use of base stations and mobile devices it might quite possibly be something related to Amazon Echo. The tests are scheduled to take place at the Amazon’s Seattle headquarters and will be extended to the Amazon customer service facility in a place called Kennewick which is 220 miles away from their headquarters.
Furthermore, in the filings Amazon reveals that the test will require three fixed transmitters and ten mobile units per locations and will involve “low power, temporary fixed base transmitters and associated mobile units indoors at and near its company facilities in Seattle, Washington” The scope of the testing will be limited to Amazon employees and Amazon assures that it will collect all the devices that don’t meet the FCC regulations once the test is over. The tests will make use of a wide range of frequency.
The test area will be limited to a 5-kilometer radius from the fixed site and Amazon might choose to fix the radius of operation from anywhere in Kennewick so that they have the flexibility to select a location and evaluate the reliability of the prototype. That said Google and Facebook have been conducting several experiments under the FCC’s with most of them related to bringing internet access to far-flung areas. Also, this is a probably a sign of how serious Amazon is with its Drone endeavors, speaking about which the company has already set up drone development centers in US, UK, Austria, and Israel.
Since US regulators will require the drone tests to be overseen by a certified pilot with a visual line of sight it is quite likely that the new communication system will allow the pilots to do so.