Amazon VP of Global Policy Paul Misener testified at a congressional hearing in Washington D.C. in March, expressing concern that the Federal Aviation Administration was not doing enough to allow innovation to blossom with unmanned aircraft systems.
“Where we lag behind is planning for future,” Misener said at the time. “It’s that high degree of automation, the beyond line-of-sight flying. It’s coming. The Europeans are getting ready for it; we are not so much.”
Well, it appears as if the FAA was listening.
The regulatory body reportedly will start studying the possibility of drone flights that can be operated beyond the pilot’s line of sight — potentially reversing previous policies that banned such flights.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the decision marks a shift in attitude by the FAA, possibly coming more in line with the desires of Amazon and Google.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled its drone delivery plan in 2013 on 60 Minutes, discussing the idea of using the devices to deliver packages to customers’ doorsteps. The plan would require the ability of Amazon to pilot the drones from warehouse facilities — beyond the line of sight of the operator — to destinations as far away as 10 miles.
In February, the FAA said it would limit commercial drone flights to those within sight of the operator, dealing a blow to Amazon’s “Prime Air” experiment.
“The proposed rule would require an operator to maintain visual line of sight of a small UAS,” the FAA said in a summary of the plan. “The rule would allow, but not require, an operator to work with a visual observer who would maintain constant visual contact with the aircraft.”
Amazon and others blasted the plan as too restrictive, and said they would continue to expand their drone R&D efforts overseas.
At this time, few details are available about the FAA’s new study, and why the organization decided to make the change.