The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy announced that Google’s drone delivery service, Project Wing, will begin testing in the United States. The step is part of a White House initiative to encourage research into safety measures and other issues connected to unmanned flight.
Tuesday’s email announcement stated that the National Science Foundation has budgeted $35 million over five years on research into unmanned flight, while the Department of the Interior is planning on increasing its use of drones.
The White House is following up on the Federal Aviation Administration’s June finalization of introductory regulations controlling drone flight, especially creating guidelines for acquiring unmanned pilot licenses and rules for commercial unmanned flights.
“Honestly, the way I think about these issues, I don’t think about the problems,” said Dave Vos, the head of Project Wing. “I think about the solutions that we can bring to bear.”
Vos was speaking at a White House event promoting drone technology.
Along with the huge rise in the commercial use of drones has come the need to regulate this activity. Such laws are about to emerge which will clear the way for a regulated business-related drone flight everywhere in the US, hopefully bringing some order to what some have considered chaos.
The FAA announced its first set of laws which will permit anyone to use drones, as long as they follow the steps and meet the requirements. The first of those will be the acquisition of a remote pilot’s certificate, which can be had by sitting for a written test at an FAA testing center.
Once you’ve received your license to fly, you will need to make sure your drone is under the 55 lb. (25 kg) limit. This covers the vast majority of drones generally in use.
The new rules also limit the maximum altitude an operator can send their drone to under 400 ft. (122 m). Speeds must also be kept under 100 mph (161 kmh) and must always be within seeing distance of the pilot. No night flying with the exception of 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset, but only if your drone is fitted with anti-collision lights. One pilot-one drone: a single operator cannot fly more than one drone at a time, and a drone is never allowed to fly over the heads of people.
The FAA says it is willing to be lenient on some of the rules if the operator can demonstrate that safety will not be compromised. A special on-line portal will be set up for pilots to make their cases for special waivers.
This is a step towards the future of retail drone delivery, but as Matt Sweeney, whose startup Flirtey carried out the first FAA-approved drone delivery exercise last year explains:
“This is to some extent broader than some people in the industry were expecting. But as currently written, you can still not fly over people, you can still not fly beyond the line of sight and you cannot operate more than one drone at a time. And those are really the three key things that are required for the drone delivery industry to emerge at scale.”