Proposed FAA rules would restrict private drone use, potentially nix Amazon drone deliveries

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2015
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has proposed a set of rules that would restrict the use of drones in the sky, placing new qualifications on private enthusiasts and seemingly striking a serious blow to Amazon's airborne delivery plans.




The FAA rules published this week remain under consideration, but they would prevent small unmanned aircraft from being flown outside of visual line-of-sight. The rules would also ban piloting of drones, like the iPhone-connected Parrot AR or DJI Phantom, over people below who aren't directly involved in the operation.

Under the proposal, drone pilots would need to be at least 17 years old and would need to pass an aeronautics test to receive a license. They would also need to be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.

The FAA's proposed regulation would also restrict drone flight to the daytime, and vehicles may not weigh more than 55 pounds or fly more than 100 miles per hour. The maximum altitude of an in-flight drone would be 500 feet above ground level, and using first-person live camera views, like those that connect to Apple's iPhone, does not satisfy the line of sight requirement.

The rules, if passed, would not only place new restrictions on enthusiasts, but could also present major roadblocks for Amazon's proposed drone delivery service.

The Amazon Prime Air concept was unveiled by the online retailer in late 2013, showing how unmanned drones could be used to deliver products quickly directly to a person's front door. The plan has been met with skepticism about the safety and reliability of allowing automated, unmanned aerial vehicles in the sky.



Specifically, Amazon's pilot program showed drones being flown out of human line of sight, and over houses, buildings and people on the ground below, both of which would be in violation of the FAA's proposed new rules.

For now, before the rules are finalized, Amazon has said it remains committed to its Prime Air vision. In a statement to Time, the company said it's "prepared to deploy" where it has regulatory support.

The FAA's proposal also includes the possibility for more flexible "micro" drones under 4.4 pounds. That could allow greater flexibility for enthusiast and hobbyist drone flyers like the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0, which weighs less than a pound with its indoor hull, or the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ weighing in at 2.7 pounds.

"We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "We want to maintain today's outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 65
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,460member

    The FAA rules also kill my plans for a new moving company: One Guy and a Drone

  • Reply 2 of 65
    Good.

    I see a bleak future for drones. They should be banned completely, save for nature programmes and maybe the odd AI view of Apple Campus 2.
  • Reply 3 of 65
    cpsro wrote: »
    The FAA rules also kill my plans for a new moving company: One Guy and a Drone

    You must have been developing a powerful drone battery for moving grand pianos.
  • Reply 4 of 65
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,460member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post



    You must have been developing a powerful drone battery for moving grand pianos.

    Disassemble, reassemble. Saw, glue. Whatever it takes! Never had a dissatisfied customer. (No customers yet.)

  • Reply 5 of 65
    WOW. I knew the Amazon flying drone delivery service was a poor idea and would be regulated out of existence. This is what the new regulations look like! A thirty second pause to think is all that's required to spot the thousand reasons why this is a no-go.

    Can you imagine the security nightmare? These things are not track able by radar. Nuff said.
  • Reply 6 of 65

    The FAA regulations aren't the only thing that voids Amazon's quadrocopter delivery system...it was a dumb plan from the start!

  • Reply 7 of 65
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by palomine View Post



    WOW. I knew the Amazon flying drone delivery service was a poor idea and would be regulated out of existence. This is what the new regulations look like! A thirty second pause to think is all that's required to spot the thousand reasons why this is a no-go.



    Can you imagine the security nightmare? These things are not track able by radar. Nuff said.



    A truck full of packages being delivered to Amazon buyers is far, far more efficient and controllable. The number of conceivable problems which might occur using automated delivery via small prop-driven vehicles are limitless! There could be mechanical or battery problems, birds could run into them, people could shoot them down, packages could not be delivered to multi-story buildings, etc.

  • Reply 8 of 65
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,415member

    I still really feel it isn't regulations, but logistics, that will make widespread drone deliveries problematic.

    It's comparatively simple to regulate - with some degree of safety, reliability, and organization - traffic that's glued to the ground.

     

    But you can't do that so easily in the air, and, no, the regulation of even the very numerous commercial flights in large, easily visible vehicles we have now bears no relation to what it would be like to have exponentially more tiny vehicles whizzing around near the ground.

     

    There simply is no 'infrastructure' - even nascent - to deal with the issues that would arise.

    And, not to be a Luddite here, but I can't believe there could or would be, for decades, even if we devoted massive resources to it.

    Picture not very clever monkeys trying to regulate houseflies...that's the image I get.

  • Reply 9 of 65
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by palomine View Post



    Can you imagine the security nightmare? These things are not track able by radar. Nuff said.

     

    That is not true:

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/aerial-robots/small-drone-detection-strategies

  • Reply 10 of 65
    I believe you are mis-understanding the FAA's rules. These rules are for private commercial operation, not hobbyist (http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-proposed-drone-rules-20150216-story.html)

    Hobbyist must stay under 400 feet (barrier for national air space). The age restriction does not apply; however, common sense as with anything definitely does.

    These rules are actually a positive step forward for the industries where drones make sense, e.g. agriculture.

    Its a beginning to a conversation. Its a good thing the FAA finally put something out there.
  • Reply 11 of 65
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by boredumb View Post

     

    I still really feel it isn't regulations, but logistics, that will make widespread drone deliveries problematic.

    It's comparatively simple to regulate - with some degree of safety, reliability, and organization - traffic that's glued to the ground.

     

    But you can't do that so easily in the air, and, no, the regulation of even the very numerous commercial flights in large, easily visible vehicles we have now bears no relation to what it would be like to have exponentially more tiny vehicles whizzing around near the ground.

     

    There simply is no 'infrastructure' - even nascent - to deal with the issues that would arise.

    And, not to be a Luddite here, but I can't believe there could or would be, for decades, even if we devoted massive resources to it.

    Picture not very clever monkeys trying to regulate houseflies...that's the image I get.


     

    You could mitigate this with a hybrid delivery system. Drive a truck to a neighborhood, and a fleet of drones take off from the vehicle to deliver the packages for a half-mile radius around the truck, potentially making a few trips, while the driver deals with larger hand-deliveries. When driver and drones are done with deliveries, they all return to the truck, and move to the next neighborhood. It would be pretty simple to envision a system where a squad of 10 drones could figure out how not to crash into each other in a square mile of airspace.

     

    image

  • Reply 12 of 65
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post

     

     

    You could mitigate this with a hybrid delivery system. Drive a truck to a neighborhood, and a fleet of drones take off from the vehicle to deliver the packages for a half-mile radius around the truck, potentially making a few trips, while the driver deals with larger hand-deliveries. When driver and drones are done with deliveries, they all return to the truck, and move to the next neighborhood. It would be pretty simple to envision a system where a squad of 10 drones could figure out how not to crash into each other in a square mile of airspace.

     

    image




    Honestly, I see that as a very unlikely scenario to begin with. More likely that robotic systems will be doing the driving, then additional automation solutions that have yet to appear will deliver the "last fifty feet" to the residence. Delivery drivers will probably mostly be out of work in the next ten years.

  • Reply 13 of 65
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,415member

    @waterrockets:

    True, although it sort of smacks of the worst of both worlds.

    And remember that it wouldn't just be one company's trucks and drones "in the neighborhood".

    Besides, I don't worry so much about them crashing into each other, as the possibility of them

    crashing into my kids, or pets, or birds, or property.  

    And while your idea certainly mitigates confusion with other commercial air traffic,

    it might make a pretty hectic near-ground neighborhood environment.

  • Reply 14 of 65
    cpsro wrote: »
    You must have been developing a powerful drone battery for moving grand pianos.
    Disassemble, reassemble. Saw, glue. Whatever it takes! Never had a dissatisfied customer. (No customers yet.)

    Mmm ... A while back, I wrote an iPhone app that itemizes things to be moved for estimating moving costs -- including the size of the moving van ...

    Now, I suppose. I'll need to enhance the app to include disassembly/assembly, glue and number of drone loads/trips ...

    Do you plan on using a single drone and multiple trips -- or a flying force of drones that can carpet-bomb deliver the goods?


    [VIDEO]
  • Reply 15 of 65
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

     



    Honestly, I see that as a very unlikely scenario to begin with. More likely that robotic systems will be doing the driving, then additional automation solutions that have yet to appear will deliver the "last fifty feet" to the residence. Delivery drivers will probably mostly be out of work in the next ten years.


     

    Yeah, we'll have to see how this stuff is phased in. New construction could also take this stuff into account, from self-driving cars getting around to autonomous deliveries. Certainly some folks will need to choose a new career path.

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by boredumb View Post

     

    @waterrockets:

    True, although it sort of smacks of the worst of both worlds.

    And remember that it wouldn't just be one company's trucks and drones "in the neighborhood".

    Besides, I don't worry so much about them crashing into each other, as the possibility of them

    crashing into my kids, or pets, or birds, or property.  

    And while your idea certainly mitigates confusion with other commercial air traffic,

    it might make a pretty hectic near-ground neighborhood environment.


     

    I wonder how many delivery trucks are in a middle-class suburban neighborhood at a time right now. Well, in my current position, this isn't my problem to solve. I don't believe there is any way we're stopping autonomous delivery though. Land and/or air, it seems like it's coming.

  • Reply 16 of 65

    Remember this is just for commercial drones.

    This is much better than what they have done up to now.

    You needed a private pilot's license including the physical to get the certificate... now you just need the written exam every 24 months.

    Sounds like the FAA are slowly getting their act together here.

  • Reply 17 of 65
    Remember this is just for commercial drones.
    This is much better than what they have done up to now.
    You needed a private pilot's license including the physical to get the certificate... now you just need the written exam every 24 months.
    Sounds like the FAA are slowly getting their act together here.

    ... It's illegal to drop people or objects over populated areas ...
  • Reply 18 of 65
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,144member
    Another example of the amazing insight of Amazon's leadership.
  • Reply 19 of 65
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,614member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    The rules, if passed, would not only place new restrictions on enthusiasts, but could also present major roadblocks for Amazon's proposed drone delivery service.



    The Amazon Prime Air concept was unveiled by the online retailer in late 2013, showing how unmanned drones could be used to deliver products quickly directly to a person's front door. The plan has been met with skepticism about the safety and reliability of allowing automated, unmanned aerial vehicles in the sky.

    That Amazon "concept" was full of hot air (pun intended) the moment it was announced.  If Amazon didn't plan on it being a viral prank, they knew there is no way the FAA would allow a city to be literally blanketed by the loud-buzzing of these arial leaf-blowers.



    Gone are the days of clunky RC airplanes are helicopters that required a level of skill and responsibility.  Now drones with integrated (i.e. "stalking") cameras that a 3-year-old can pilot around are just ripe for abuse.  I heard from two friends living in high-rise condominiums about drone quadcopters hovering outside their windows, only to quickly disappear when they are spotted.  I'm glad the FAA is clamping down on it.  The concept is great, but it is so ripe for abuse.

  • Reply 20 of 65
    ecatsecats Posts: 272member

    Amazon using drones is nothing more than PR.

    1. Drones can only lift both small and light objects

    2. Birds are highly territorial and attack drones

    3. The range is nearly halved by the need for the drone to return home

    4. Wind/Rain/Snow: No drones.

    And finally, the most important aspect: Drones carrying goods will be perceived as high tech piñatas.

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