On Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration effectively ended any commercial attempts at drone delivery services in the U.S.
Several companies have been researching and experimenting with the idea of delivering their products via drone in recent months. For instance, Amazon announced it’s intention to distribute its goods to consumers via drone in 2013; the ultimate goal being single day delivery. In Australia, Google has experimented with drone deliveries as well.
However, these plans have been quashed thanks to burdensome regulations from the FAA.
In a 195 page proposal, the Federal Aviation Administration laid out its regulations for the commercial use of drones. Several of the new rules directly prevent the advancement of any drone delivery service. Specifically, the proposal requires drones to stay within the eyesight of the operator, prohibits them from flying over people, and rules out automated flights.
Amazon has already stated that their drone delivery program is not viable under the new rules, and it will continue experimenting and pursuing drone deliveries in other countries with less troublesome regulation, such as India.
“Amazon is increasingly concerned that, unless substantial progress is quickly made in opening up the skies in the United States, the nation is at risk of losing its position as the center of innovation for the UAS technological revolution, along with the key jobs and economic benefits that come as a result,” said Paul Misener, the vice president of Amazon. “Without approval of our testing in the United States, we will be forced to continue expanding our Prime Air R&D footprint abroad.”
While the FAA’s intent may be to ensure safety in U.S. airspace, what it’s really doing is pushing innovation out of the country.
Drone distribution services are progressing around the world while the U.S. sits and watches. The U.S. is lagging behind dozens of countries that have allowed commercial drone flights for some time now and have looser regulations. In Germany, a company is already carrying out automated drone deliveries to less accessible areas. France’s postal service is currently experimenting with delivering mail to rural areas with drones. Resourceful organizations are finding countless applications of drone technology—none of which is welcome in America.
The FAA must strike a balance between maintaining a safe air space and nurturing an environment of creativity and innovation in order for America to remain competitive.
I see this as a positive step. At the very least it means that I will not have to wear a hard hat every time I step out of my door and into my yard just in case a drone drops out of the sky because of mechanical failure.
The FAA is right on this. Safety considerations need to catch up with technology.