Tags: FAA | drones | restrictions | amazon | google | package delivery

Report: FAA to Study Loosening Restrictions on Flying Drones

By    |   Wednesday, 06 May 2015 03:11 PM

It looks like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is ready to loosen its iron grip on drone flights, which has made the agency a target of criticism from companies wanting to use drones for everything from package delivery to crop dusting and news gathering.

The Wall Street Journal says the FAA on Wednesday will announce plans to study easing of restrictions on flying drones beyond the line of sight of an operator, which the agency has banned, even for research purposes.

That's very welcome news for companies, such as Amazon and Google, which have been pushing the FAA to allow them to initiate package delivery by drone in the U.S.
Further, the Journal states, industry would-be drone users are noticing a "sharp shift in attitude in recent weeks on critical issues such as drone test flights."

A federal official told the Journal that the FAA is unlikely to change the rules it proposed in February, which ban flights out of the line of sight, before the completion of final rules next year.

The FAA also announced a program called "Pathfinder," a partnership between the FAA and CNN News, drone crop-dusting firm PrecisionHawk, and BNSF Railway, which wants to use drones to examine rail line infrastructure, to study how those applications will work, NBC News reported.

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And later this summer, the FAA plans to release a smartphone app called "B4UFLY" for drone hobbyists, to tell them whether the area where they want to fly their drones is safe, NBC News reported.

The FAA has not commented on what caused the apparent loosening of its attitude toward drones.

"I don’t know what triggered it," Dave Voss, Google's delivery drone project head, told the Journal. "They’re talking to us and we’re collaborating.

"Honestly, in the last two to three weeks, things have made a dramatic change. Three to four months ago, we were a little bit concerned about how much progress we could make here in the U.S., but what we’re seeing today is significant opportunity to work here in the U.S. with the FAA."

The FAA already is allowing a Boeing subsidiary and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to fly drones beyond the line of sight off-shore in Alaska and other border areas, where there is little commercial air traffic, but Amazon and Google have been pushing to be allowed to fly in busier airspace.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said at the Unmanned Systems 2015 Conference in Atlanta, "One of the things we have been very focused on is a staged implementation. What we want to ensure is that the industry is not in any way finding themselves needing to take a step back because we do something too fast," NBC News reported.

"Integrating unmanned aircraft into our airspace is a big job, and it's one the FAA is determined to get right," Huerta said, the National Journal noted.

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It looks like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is ready to loosen its iron grip on drone flights, which has made the agency a target of criticism from companies wanting to use drones for everything from package delivery to crop dusting and news gathering.
FAA, drones, restrictions, amazon, google, package delivery
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2015-11-06
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 03:11 PM
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