Amazon has been one of the pioneers of the technology with Prime Air, its drone delivery programme that aims to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes. The FAA has granted the online retailer permission to start testing its unmanned aircraft as part of its Prime Air initiative. However the U.S Aviation regulator advanced certain rules on the drone flights limiting their utilization. However, the drones will be used for delivering some packages and inspecting pipelines since companies have shown tremendous potential of drone technology for this. The proposed rules by the Federal Aviation Administration involves obtaining special pilot certificates by the unnamed aircraft pilots, staying away from bystanders and flying only during the day.
Also, the drones will not be allowed to fly over people who are not involved in the drone operations, and the drones must be flown by an observer on the ground who can maintain visual contact with the aircraft. The limit of flying speed will be 100 miles per hour (160 kph) and the altitude 400 feet (120 meters) above ground level. The rules also say pilots must remain in the line of sight of its radio-control pilot, which could limit inspection of pipelines, crops, and electrical towers that are one of the major uses envisioned by companies.
The United States cannot afford to lag behind other countries in technological innovation because of regulatory foot-dragging and thus FAA has made flexible rules that have different framework evolved on discussion with industry and technology developments. The present rules restrict filming of crowds by news organizations. The proposal seems to benefit U.S. farmers and ranchers as it would enable them to scout fields more efficiently.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to an Amazon business unit and its prototype drone, allowing test flights over private, rural land in Washington. The FAA also granted Amazon an exemption from other flight restrictions so the experimental drone can conduct those flights. Late last year, Amazon hired a pilot to work in their Cambridge, U.K., R&D center. The company had threatened to move its drone research entirely out of the U.S. if the FAA did not ease restrictions.
Bizarrely, the drones are allowed to take to the air despite the fact that US law states that drones are only allowed to be flown for recreational use and not commercial use. However, the FAA is reviewing those rules and is expected to extend them to permit commercial drone usage. It seems as though the dream of having Amazon packages delivered to you by drone may one day become reality. The FAA said the potential for drones to save lives justifies their use on an economic basis. If approved, it could be a game changer.