The Federal Aviation Administration’s new set of rules for commercial drone use officially began on Monday, August 29, removing some barriers for drone deliveries but leaving others in place. These new guidelines require companies to register their drones online and then pass a knowledge test to be certified, a lesser restriction than previously needing a manned aircraft pilot’s license.
Until now, commercial operators had to apply for a waiver from rules that govern manned aircraft, a time-consuming process that has left 7,600 applications waiting for approval since 2014.
The new rules allow for drones weighing less than 55 pounds to fly up to 400 feet high and move at 100 miles per hour. Drones will not be allowed to fly at night unless they have special lighting and must stay at least five miles from airports.
The rules also note that an operator can fly a commercial drone without a certificate if they are supervised by someone who has been certified, indicating that multiple drones can be operated by a single certified operator.
However, companies aiming to use drones for deliveries still face two major obstacles: Drones must remain in sight of an operator and can’t be flown over people. “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,” David Proulx, vice president of product and marketing for Aeryon Labs Inc., which produces small Unmanned Aerial Systems, said in an April interview with Counselor.
Amazon and Google have both said they plan to start using drones to deliver products ordered online by 2017. Jordy Gamson, co-owner of The Icebox (asi/229395), used drones for aerial photography of the Atlanta Beltline Lantern Parade in 2014. “Delivery by drones is a foregone conclusion,” Gamson told Counselor in June. “It will make deliveries faster and will allow people’s budgets to be more specific to actual numbers instead of projections. If it gives me an edge over another distributor, I’ll take it.”
Harry Ein, owner of Perfection Promo (asi/232119), says it’s too early for the promotional products industry to consider drone deliveries because of the weight requirements. “We deal with more bulk ordering, so for the most part, our orders are several boxes worth,” Ein told Counselor. “I can’t imagine how a drone would be able to carry all of that. Perhaps sometime down the road, we can use drones for delivering tech accessories or on-demand printing.”