Consumer-facing drones definitely had their moment in 2015 with a crush of them appearing in the sky flowing by hobbyists’ hands. However, commercial operators have largely been stymied by the lack of regulations governing who can and can’t fly – and what they can and can’t deliver by drones as well.
Now, the Federal Aviation Administration has published its first comprehensive drone regulations to date, and unfortunately for Amazon and other would-be drone shippers, that future is still some months and years away.
In fact, the FAA’s rules hardly mention drones for delivery purposes, though a few key policies all but make the concept impossible. First, the drones mentioned aren’t autonomous, but operated by a human pilot, and as such they must remain within the line of sight of said operator. All devices must also weigh 50 pounds or less, which would make shipping many items over a few pounds prohibitive. Drones are also restricted from flying over other humans unprotected by standing structures and cannot fly above 400 feet unless scaling a building taller than that height.
Nevertheless, some in the Obama administration tried to assuage disappointed drone delivery advocates that the FAA would be revisiting other uses for drones in the very near future.
“We are in the early days of an aviation revolution that will change the way we do business, keep people safe, and gather information about our world,” President Barack Obama told Bloomberg News. “This is just a first step, but this is the kind of innovative thinking that helps make change work for us — not only to grow the economy, but to improve the lives of the American people.”