FAA could make commercial drone rules within 12 months as other countries race for 100 billion dollar global drone markets

Michael Whitaker, the FAA’s deputy administrator, said the FAA expects to formalize regulations for commercial drones within 12 months. “The rule will be in place within a year,” he told the House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Amazon could be making drone deliveries within the year. Not only that, but the e-commerce company wants to deliver products within 30 minutes using the small, unmanned aircraft.

“We’d like to begin delivering to our customers as soon as it’s approved,” added Amazon vice president of global public policy Paul Misener. “We will have it in place by the time any regulations are ready. We are working very quickly.” He added that the company plans to use drones to deliver products within 30 minutes of customers ordering them.

A British delivery firm has beaten Amazon to complete the UK’s first test delivery by drone, shipping a belt tensioner to a customer aboard a modified off-the-shelf unmanned aircraft.

Warwickshire-based FPS Distribution has partnered with Yorkshire firm Droneflight to carry out the trial, delivering the component inside a waterproof box from the FPS National Distribution Centre in Sheffield to a local customer, Brakeline.

The firm said the modified drone was able to travel at a speed of up to 30 miles per hour, covering the distance of about seven miles without having to recharge its battery.

The importance of gaining a headstart in the development and deployment of drone technology is driving fierce competition between rival countries, such as the USA, UK, Japan and China.

In Japan, the government is looking to fast-track industry friendly regulation in order to give its drone sector the edge, building on the country’s global reputation in electronics and robotics.

Representatives from companies such as Yamaha Motor and security firm Secom Co are acting as advisers to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the drive to overhaul existing drone regulations.

At present, the only aviation regulations covering drones in Japan require that they fly below 150 meters and at least 9 kms (5.6 miles) away from airports. Drones used in agriculture need two operators, with precautions for the surrounding environment. Japan has been using drones in its farming industry since the 1980s, when an unmanned Yamaha R-50 helicopter took to the air to spray pesticide on rice crops. Today, more than 2,500 Japanese agriculture drones are in operation.

Yamaha is looking to adapt its drone technology to patrol Japan’s borders and for checking oil and gas pipelines.

Secom has announced plans to launch a small business service offering surveillance drones that can be scrambled to take photos of an intruder if an alarm sounds. The company also wants to pitch its security drones for use at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Despite the prospect of a global drones market being worth $100 billion over the next decade, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is perceived as dragging its feet over committing to a regulatory framework.

SOURCES- Fast Company, Engineering and Technology Magazine