Remember that pre-Cyber Monday 60 Minutes puff piece about Amazon’s drone delivery? Well, Amazon’s most successful marketing ploy ever just hit a huge snag as the FAA has just banned drones from delivering packages. Sure, DHL is also testing such a service, but they’re doing so in Germany where no such laws currently exist to restrict it. The document that the FAA released today asks for comment on their interpretation of the model aircraft regulation law which they believe does not allow such aircraft to participate in commercial businesses as opposed to hobbying.
Frankly, the FAA’s interpretation of the model aircraft spec rule clearly indicates that they want nothing to do with drones flying over our skies. They may be justified in restricting such flights until real commercial and regulatory rules are employed in order to ensure safety and legality. However, many of the airlines may also be pushing for this because they all fly tons of packages over the air from city to city and if they have competition from drones there is a good chance they could see less air traffic from packages. Even though realistically most of these drone deliveries are short distance and should not compete with the airlines at all. But, the airlines may be arguing that the drones could endanger their planes, pilots and passengers if not properly regulated, which may actually be a fair argument.
Obviously, considering how many planes and helicopters we already have in the air every day there are certain restrictions that need to be put on drones and drone flight, but overly regulating them may also result in innovation being hampered. After all, there’s a good chance that developments in drone flight technology could help us eventually find a way to individual human flight. By restricting drone flight too much we risk the chance of missing out on a potentially large business and improving the overall efficiency and efficacy of shipping things short distances quickly. Especially when you think about places like New York City where automobile travel is almost worthless and couriers can barely carry one package at a time. A world where drones deliver packages to the roofs of buildings and then those packages are delivered within the building sounds far more efficient than having hundreds of couriers running around the city delivering individual packages trying to weave through traffic.