Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New FAA Drone Rules May Ground Commercial Delivery Plans

Several companies like Amazon have been keeping a close watch on the FAA and hopes were high that they would easy some of their restrictions that would allow for new services like Amazon Prime Air delivery to take effect. Unfortunately the FAA decided to keep in place many of their temporary restrictions that will severely hinder, if not totally ground, any company's plans to create a viable drone air delivery program.

With the newly released rules, scheduled to take effect in late August, the FAA outlined the official restrictions that will apply to thousands of companies that wish to use drones as a part of their commercial ventures. While the new rules did relax a few licensing requirements and allowed for a few new changes such as twilight hours of flight. They kept in place the line of sight requirement which will have a major impact on how companies utilize drones. This rules requires that operators or observers maintain sight of the drone at all times. Something that will likely make it prohibitive for large scale delivery services to take off.

The FAA's 624-page rulebook allows commercial drones weighing up to 55 pounds to fly during daylight hours and lower than 400 feet in the air, or higher if within 400 feet of a taller building or tower. The aircraft must remain within sight of the operator or an observer who is in communication with the operator. The operators must be at least 16 years old and pass an aeronautics test every 24 months for a certificate and a background check by the Transportation Security Administration.

The FAA is offering a process to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. The FAA will make an online portal available to apply for these waivers in the months ahead.

“With this new rule, we are taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect public safety,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “But this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”

More details on Part 107 and the announcement can be found on the FAA's website.

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