San Francisco (KCBS) — Amazon scored a victory this week in its battle with government regulators over their plan to deliver products by drone.
The FAA has agreed to let the company fly Amazon Prime Air Drones… but with some big restrictions.
One of those restrictions is that drone operators must have a pilot’s license. I can tell you I have a pilot’s license and flying a regular airplane, like a Cessna, is very different from flying a drone. It’s a completely different skill set. I’m not sure why they would bother with this requirement. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be qualified but I think a whole different set of qualifications would make sense.
Another thing to consider… Amazon’s drone deal with the government is very restrictive. They can only fly at 400 feet. They can only fly over private property for now. And they have to be in line of sight with the pilot which means they’re not going to be able to really test how these things will operate in the real world. In reality, drones would leave Amazon’s distribution center somewhere in a metropolitan area and fly over land to someone’s home or office. There is no way a pilot could be in line of sight with a drone when these things are actually operating.
I would call this a very small victory for Amazon. At least they get to put them up in the air and see how they’ll fly. But they’re going to have a lot more work to do to actually see how these things will work over urban terrain.
Drones are already a reality for some businesses so their use for delivery is probably inevitable. Right now drones are used to check railroad tracks, survey farmland and other limited applications. I think there is a lot of potential for commercial drones. They’re already used in recreation… go to the beach and you’ll see people flying them everywhere.
There are still problems to solve, safety and privacy among them, but I have confidence that they will. I can eventually see FedEx and Amazon and other companies delivering packages via drone. It’s not going to be next year but I think it will happen at some point. Remember, planes were once a scary idea too.