Commercial drone rules to be proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration would require unmanned aircraft to fly below 400 feet and remain within sight of the operator, who would need to a license to operate the drone, according to a report this morning by the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources.
The proposed rules, expected to be made public by the end of the year, would create major challenges for Amazon’s “Prime Air” delivery initiative in the United States. The company has proposed using drones to deliver packages in a radius of up to 10 miles, well beyond the line of sight of the person flying the drone.
We’ve contacted Amazon seeking comment on the report.
Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, which includes Amazon and Google, tells the WSJ that he believes there’s “a colossal mess coming,” and that the proposed rules are “so divorced from the technology and the aspirations of this industry…that we’re going to see a loud rejection.”
After the FAA issues the proposed rules, there would be an extended public comment period, with final rules coming a year or two after that.
As proposed, the rules would be more restrictive than those in other countries, including Canada, reflecting the FAA’s concerns about drones causing problems and potential accidents in commercial airspace. Drone advocates say the line-of-sight proposal overlooks the ability of drone operators to use cameras to see the view from the drone.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the drone delivery plan a year ago on 60 Minutes, part of a broader effort by the company to increase delivery speeds for customers.
“I know this looks like science fiction,” Bezos said at the time. “It’s not.”