FAA Drone Task Force Members Include Amazon, Google, Walmart
Walmart recently began to seek permission from the FAA to test-fly package delivery drones outdoors in hopes that it can put together a method to zoom packages to consumers in the future, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The company has applied to the FAA for approval of proposals to provide package home delivery, curbside pickup and warehouse inventory checking as it looks to find new ways of shipping purchases to consumers. Such a move would echo similar tests that have been underway at Amazon.com, which has for the past several years been planning delivery services using drones that could take packages to online shoppers more quickly than conventional delivery methods such as UPS, the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx. The FAA has been working since 2012 to develop rules and procedures for the commercial use of drones in the United States. In June, an FAA spokesman said the agency is working to have drone regulations in place by mid-2016. Now, the agency has shortened that timeline, saying it will be next April or so. The regulations will govern drone flights and keep them safely away from commercial and private aircraft traffic as well as pedestrians and other hazards on the ground. Earlier in October, a coalition of 29 aviation groups harshly criticized the FAA's slowness in approving drone rules, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The groups argued in a joint letter that the agency is to blame for failing to meet a Sept. 30 congressional deadline to get rules in place for commercial drone use in the United States. In 2012, Congress told the FAA to create and integrate commercial drone rules with FAA rules for private and commercial airspace so that they could operate safely in the skies together.Amazon has been looking at drone deliveries as a way of offering faster service to customers while also saving money, compared with the more costly human-based delivery systems.
In July, Amazon proposed the use of specific sections of U.S. airspace for drone flights so that it could push forward with its plans to provide package delivery flights across the United States, eWEEK reported at the time. Amazon's idea is to designate airspace below 200 feet for drones that do surveying or inspections or take videos, while reserving airspace between 200 to 400 feet for delivery drones that are making their way over communities. Such a system would then connect drones as they are operating to an online network that would manage their flights in real time to keep them from harm's way. The airspace between 200 and 400 feet would allow drones to be flown autonomously, while being equipped with sophisticated sense-and-avoid technologies.