Remote-operator drone regulations were proposed by the FAA last week, and they may have dealt a death-blow to Amazon‘s 2013 announcement that the company was actively pursuing the idea of using drones for package delivery. While mocked at the time, drone delivery is a concept that would save the company somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion dollars a year while reducing the number of fossil fuel-burning trucks on the roads to fulfill customer orders.
These regulations include a few caveats for commercial drone operation that stand to throw a wrench in Amazon’s plans. While the restriction that commercial operators must be at least 17 years old and have an operator’s license from a regulated facility are not too surprising, the issue of “line of sight” operation is at the crux of Amazon’s issue. Unlike military or police applications of drone technology where the operator may be literally thousands of miles away, the FAA proposal requires commercial drone operators to remain in full view of the drone at all times.
That won’t be very convenient for delivering a book from a fulfillment center in one state to a reader’s home in a neighboring state.
Amazon has already voices its complaints regarding the FAA proposal and acknowledges that testing of drone delivery can move forward in international markets with less stringent regulations, but that the company will work to demonstrate an acceptable solution. The FAA, for its part, has also acknowledged that its proposed regulations are a jumping off point for discussions that could last a couple of years before the actual laws are put in place. The agency has cited current air safety regulations as its basis for developing drone regulations, and admits that drones are a wholly different technology than a commercial airplane.