(NEWSnet/AP) — Amazon announced Thursday that federal regulators have given the company clearance to allow it to expand its drone delivery program.

In a blog post published on its website, Seattle-based Amazon said that the Federal Aviation Administration has given its Prime Air delivery service the OK to operate drones “beyond visual line of sight,” removing a barrier that has prevented its drones from traveling longer distances.

With the approval, Amazon pilots can now operate drones remotely without seeing them with their own eyes. An FAA spokesperson said the approval applies to College Station, Texas, where the company launched drone deliveries in late 2022.

Amazon said its planning to immediately scale its operations in College Station in an effort to reach customers in more densely populated areas. It says the approval from regulators also “lays the foundation” to scale its operations to more locations around the country.

Amazon said it submitted other engineering information to the FAA and conducted flight demonstrations in front of federal inspectors. Those demonstrations were also done “in the presence of real planes, helicopters, and a hot air balloon to demonstrate how the drone safely navigated away from each of them,” Amazon said.

Last month, Amazon said it would close a drone delivery site in Lockeford, California - one of only two in the nation - and open another one later this year in Tolleson, Arizona, a city located west of Phoenix.

By the end of the decade, the company has a goal of delivering 500 million packages by drone every year.

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