New FAA rules mean you won't get Amazon drone delivery anytime soon

Many commercial drone flights are cleared for take-off, but drones still have to remain within sight of operators

The Federal Aviation Administration has published long-awaited rules that loosen restrictions on commercial use of drones but don't go as far as allowing drone delivery services like those proposed by Amazon.

The rules, scheduled to take effect in late August, replace temporary restrictions that have required thousands of companies to apply for special permission to use drones as part of their job.

Many of the rules are similar to the temporary restrictions including the requirement that drones be kept within line of sight of the operator at all times. That means automated delivery services like Amazon's Prime Air will be unable to operate.

Amazon did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but the company has been outspoken in the past about moving its drone research and development overseas if the FAA didn't allow operations.

The line of sight requirement will also affect other promising potential applications of drones, such as inspection flights along power lines, gas pipelines and railway lines to check for problems or obstacles.

Something else new: Currently, drones are restricted to daytime use but the new rules extend to twilight if the drone has anticollision lights.

Other provisions remain the same: drones cannot operate over people not associated with the flight; must yield to other aircraft; and cannot fly above 400 feet. They also spell out where the drone can fly. Operations are allowed within most airspace with air traffic control clearance, but never around major airports.

To operate a drone for commercial use, the FAA will require some knowledge of the rules of the sky, either through a remote pilot certificate, which is a new certification the agency is preparing, or a student private pilot's license.

In contrast, hobbyists can fly drones without either of the two licenses.

The rules help commercial operators in one important way: for most commercial use, operators no longer have to go through a legal procedure to obtain FAA permission for operations.

"While it's exciting that commercial drones are finally legal, the FAA missed an opportunity to remove many unnecessary restrictions on the use of this promising technology," said Eli Dourado, director of the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Dourado noted that the rules no longer prohibit drones carrying external loads, so limited delivery service could be attempted. But the line-of-sight requirement severely limits this.

"To truly tap the full potential of this technology, more restrictions will need to be lifted," he said.

Marc Scribner, a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said he believes the FAA should have gone further in its rules, allowing freer access to the skies and leveling the playing field between hobby and commercial operators.

"The FAA really seems intent on putting up a firewall between model aircraft operations and anything that could be used in a higher capacity," he said. "If a kid wants to help out a realtor and make some extra money, they’re going to find they need a remote pilot airman’s certificate to do so."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags amazondrones

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?