Amazon Prime Air Delivery drone. (Courtesy of Amazon)
Amazon.com Inc. has turned to lobbyists at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington to help its drone delivery program take flight.
The online retailer hired Akin Gump to engage in “advocacy with regard to testing and operation of [unmanned aerial vehicles] in the U.S.” for Amazon Prime Air, according to lobbying registration paperwork filed on June 13. Akin Gump is the first outside firm to lobby for Prime Air, which Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos unveiled in a 60 Minutes interview that aired in December.
The lobbyists on the account include Akin Gump partner Ed Pagano, senior policy adviser Michael Drobac and senior public policy specialist Melanie Goggins. Drobac, who was Netflix Inc.’s first in-house lobbyist, and Goggins previously lobbied for Amazon at Patton Boggs before they joined Akin Gump this year.
“The policy work being developed around the emerging area of unmanned aerial systems could have an impact on a wide range of industries,” Akin Gump spokesman Jeffrey Mutterperl said in a written statement. “It’s quickly becoming a topic for which our clients are seeking our counsel and we are well positioned to assist them.”
An Amazon representative wasn’t immediately available to comment.
The registration filing came three days after the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it approved its first commercial drone flight over land. Without FAA authorization, which is done on a case-by-case basis, commercial drone flights can face fines. Congress tasked the agency with creating regulations by September 2015 that would allow drones to safely share airspace with manned aircraft.
Amazon is looking to start drone delivery as soon as the regulations are finalized, according to the company’s website. With Prime Air, Amazon wants to deliver orders to customers in less than 30 minutes.
“It looks like science fiction, but it’s real,” Amazon’s website says.
In addition to Prime Air, Akin Gump’s lobbyists are helping Amazon with the Marketplace Fairness Act, according to another lobbying registration report filed last week. The legislation would allow states to collect sales taxes from online and catalog retailers located anywhere in the United States.
Amazon spent $830,000 on federal government advocacy during the first quarter of this year, according to the company’s most recent lobbying activity filing. For its advocacy work, the company used its own staffers as well as lobbyists from firms that included Van Ness Feldman and Bockorny Group, in addition to Patton Boggs, which became Squire Patton Boggs this month.
Contact Andrew Ramonas at email@example.com. On Twitter: @andrewramonas.
Updated 12:17 p.m.