Will Promo Companies Get Drones Off The Ground?

As Amazon prepares to usher in the era of drone delivery, promotional product suppliers are certainly wondering when it will be feasible to launch their own efforts. “It’s not a case of whether a drone is cheaper than a delivery truck – that’s not the math,” says David Proulx, vice president of product and marketing for Aeryon Labs Inc., which produces small Unmanned Aerial Systems, or UAS. “It’s a case of getting the technology to the point where drones can operate autonomously over long distances and also getting the regulatory environment to the point where we know how to partition the airspace.” Here are the hurdles.

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Tangled Regulations: The Federal Aviation Administration authorizes commercial drones on a case-by-case basis, but the current proposed requirements are convoluted. Not only must drones stay away from bystanders and fly only during daytime, but they have to stay within the visual line of sight of the pilot – which means no deliveries to customers the next town over, let alone the next state.

Connected Network: Drones need to not only speak with each other, but they must coordinate with a wide range of other aircraft. “How does a drone interact with a helicopter that may need to be in the same airspace for a medical evacuation?” says Proulx.

Significant Costs: “Between now and when it is possible for drones to deliver, there is this massive capital investment required by the industry,” Proulx says. Manufacturers are reluctant to spend on different models until international guidelines are set. “You don’t want to be building different versions of aircraft to sell to different markets,” he adds.