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Category: Transportation and Logistics

Supply Chain News: FAA Relaxes Drone Rules, could Accelerate Adoption for Commercial Deliveries


Key Change will Allow Drones to Fly Over People

Dec. 29, 2020

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this week announced a relaxation of rules relative to commercial drone flights, changes which are likely to accelerate adoption.

Supply Chain Digest Says...


In 2013, founder Jeff Bezos predicted that his company would use drones to deliver goods to customers' doorsteps within five years, but that prediction is already off by two years.

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The new guidelines allow drones to operate at night and fly over people. The currrent ban on flying over most people has been seen as a significant barrier to commercial delivery applications.

The FAA also said it would mandate remote identification technology for both commercial and non-commercial drones such that they can be identifiable with some type of reader on the ground. This requirement will address security concerns and make drones easier to track, the FAA said.

"These final rules carefully address safety, security and privacy concerns while advancing opportunities for innovation and utilization of drone technology," US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in a statement.

The new rules will go into effect early in 2021, the FAA said.

The permission to fly over people is a major change. Currently, small drone operations over people were only permitted for those who were directly participating in the operation, located under some type of covered structure, or inside a stationary vehicle, unless operators had obtained a waiver from the FAA.

Night time flying will only be allowed for licensed drone operators who have complete additional training and if anti-collision lights are added to the drones that can be seen for at least three miles

The Remote ID requirement will require every drone sold in the US that weighs more than 0.55 pounds to come with a way to broadcast its location and identification as well as the location of the drone operator to local authorities.

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The remote ID is really just a form of digital license plate for drones and operators.

Details of the remote ID requirement are sparse, however. For example, the FAA doesn't say how far drones will need to broadcast their location, and doesn't yet say how manufacturers should integrate the technology into their drones.

The loosening of the rules about flying over people is seen by many as a crucial step in enabling companies like Amazon, Alphabet's Wing subsidiary, UPS and others to operate drone delivery services - even as some of them have appeared to have scaled back their plans given slow regulatory changes.

For example, in November Amazon confirmed that it was laying off a number of people working on its internal drone delivery project. The UK's Financial Times reported that drone pioneer had opted to shrink its internal team in favor of using external contractors to complete the work. The report's anonymous sources said that executives were frustrated at the speed of progress, leading to the change in strategy.

In 2013, founder Jeff Bezos predicted that his company would use drones to deliver goods to customers' doorsteps within five years, but that prediction is already off by two years.

In August, Amazon did receive an FAA waiver to deliver packages by drones. However the company is still testing the service and hasn't said when shoppers will see actual drone deliveries.

Do you think drone deliveries will now "take off" soon? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.




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