If you live in the United States, don’t expect a drone to be delivering that package you just ordered from Amazon. Ever.
The Federal Aviation Administration has dealt a major blow to Amazon and other US companies that are looking to use drones to deliver goods. According to the proposed rules (pdf), the drones must remain within the visual line-of-sight (VLOS) of the operator or visual observer. Also, smaller drones are banned from going over crowded areas.
Those two caveats, of course, would make it nearly impossible for Amazon’s Prime Air or any other drone delivery service to get off the ground in the US. None of these new proposed rules, however, apply to hobbyists who want to fly a drone in their backyard or commercial users who aren’t delivering goods, such as farmers, videographers or real estate agents.
Amazon clearly can’t be happy about this. Paul Misener, Amazon VP for global policy, has called for rules that would address Amazon’s drones deliver service.
“The FAA’s proposed rules for small UAS could take one or two years to be adopted and, based on the proposal, even then those rules wouldn’t allow Prime Air to operate in the United States.” He continues, “The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers. “We are committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need.”
Michael E. Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Coalition, says the proposal raises questions about the ability of a drone to carry a payload. “My view is that it could be that what they (FAA officials) are saying is, there is not going to be the opportunity for delivery,” he tells USA Today.
Several other countries, including Canada, Denmark, and the U.K., are more lenient with drone rules and already use them for delivery. “We are not catching up with this. – We are still probably going to need an act of Congress,” Drobac says.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wants the FAA to modify the current proposal. “These FAA rules are a solid first step but need a lot more refining. … The inclusion of the rule that drones must be flown within the operator’s line of sight appears to be a concerning limitation on commercial usage; I urge the FAA to modify that as these rules are finalized.”
Again, none of these rules apply to hobbyists flying drones in their backyards. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules for you, either. In fact, there are plenty of them, and we recommend you know them before flying your drone.