The FAA is years late in approving commercial use of drones and has violated numerous congressional deadlines. Mr. Bezos says regulatory inertia—not massive R and D—is blocking Amazon’s futuristic plan to have low-flying vehicles deliver within 30 minutes the 85% of its packages weighing less than five pounds.
The FAA added insult to injury by granting Amazon a useless certificate to test a model of drone that R and D had made obsolete.
Amazon has a “secret” testing facility at a location 2,000 feet across the border in British Columbia, Canada.
“The largest Internet retailer in the world is keeping the location of its new test site closely guarded,” the Guardian reported. “What can be revealed is that the company’s formidable team of roboticists, software engineers, aeronautics experts and pioneers in remote sensing—including a former NASA astronaut and the designer of the wingtip of the Boeing 787—are now operating in British Columbia.”
Last year, Mr. Bezos told a business conference, “Technology is not going to be the long pole. The long pole is going to be regulatory.” He added, “I think it is sad but possible that the U.S. could be late” to the benefits of drones, which are allowed to fly more freely in Britain, Australia, Germany and Israel as well as Canada.
3D Robotics commercializing drones with $50 million in venture funding
After raising $50 million late in February, 3D Robotics is at a watershed moment made possible by the FAA, which is now allowing small-drone commercial operations in the United States for the first time, according to Andrew “Max” Maximow, the company’s San Diego-based director of client services. Anticipating the opportunity, the Berkeley, CA-based company has expanded to 300 employees, and rearranged some of its operations in San Diego, Tijuana, and Austin, TX.
The FAA has drafted a new “framework of regulations” for the commercial use of drones weighing less than 55 pounds. Before the regulations are finalized, though, the agency has been testing the water, so to speak, by creating an exemption that allows the commercial use of small drones in civil airspace on a case-by-case basis.
The FAA also has approved requests to use drones in closed-set filming for the motion picture and television industry, and for use in agricultural surveys and mapping. Only certified pilots can operate the drones under the FAA’s special authorization, which sets a variety of other restrictions on commercial, small drone operations.
Texas-based BNSF Railroad approached 3D Robotics “out of the blue,” Maximow said, for help in using drones to conduct regular railway infrastructure inspections. The railroad, which operates the second-largest rail network in North America, wants to use 3DRobotics’ new Spektre industrial multi-rotor drone and two models from Germany’s AirRobot to conduct regular inspections of railway infrastructure and rights of way.
At the end of February, 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson offered a sneak peek of the Spektre, which is still under development. With a lightweight carbon-fiber frame, the Spektre weighs less than 20 pounds and can be outfitted with as many as eight propellers. It is intended to serve as a multi-function “truck” in a variety of heavy-duty roles, Maximow said.
Kansas University developing next level drones
Robby is a convertible quadcopter, “next-level” compared with the highest-tech quadcopter drones sold for entertainment today, Barrett-Gonzalez said. Robby has four propellers plus a fuselage and can hover like a helicopter or tip sideways and rocket through the air like a plane.
Translating Robby from prototype to market would require a manufacturing plan that would keep costs around a few hundred dollars.
A military and police drone version will have on-board collision-avoidance technology.
Robby model A will be equipped with a range limit for the transmitter. Keeping toy drones in the operator’s line of sight is what the FAA requires to keep them in the air.
SOURCES – LJworld, Wall Street Journal, Twitter, Youtube, xconomy
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.