The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its final rules around the safety of drone flying yesterday (hat tip to GeekWire). The new rules outline requirements around Remote Identification (ID) of drones, as well as spell out rules for flying drones over people and at night. The FAA’s new rules will help bring regulatory clarity to the developing drone delivery industry.
The Remote ID rule is pretty much what it sounds like, requiring drone manufacturers to include technology that “provides identification of drones in flight as well as the location of their control stations.” The rule is meant to identify specific manufacturers should something go wrong with a drone during its flight. This information will be made available to security and law enforcement agencies. Drones without Remote ID functionality will only be allowed to fly in certain areas designated by the FAA.
The second rule released yesterday was the Operations Over People and at Night rule, which covers pretty much what you’d expect. For flights over people and moving vehicles, it outlines the different categories of aircraft and the required safety precautions. Here’s an example from the FAA’s Executive Summary of the new rules:
Category 2 eligible small unmanned aircraft must not cause injury to a human being that is equivalent to or greater than the severity of injury caused by a transfer of 11 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact from a rigid object, does not contain any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin upon impact with a human being, and does not contain any safety defects.
Unsettlingly, the phrase “lacerate human skin” is actually used quite a bit throughout the rules summary.
In its press release, the FAA didn’t specifically mention food delivery instead issuing the following statement:
“The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”
The FAA’s new rules will certainly help the nascent food delivery sector as it starts to grow. We’ve already seen drone food delivery pop up in small use cases around the U.S. throughout 2020. Walmart partnered with Flytrex for a pilot in North Carolina. Flytrex has also been doing drone delivery tests in North Dakota and North Carolina. And Rouses Market partnered with Deuce Drone to make grocery deliveries in Mobile, Alabama. And there are more on the horizon with big companies like Amazon and Google having their own drones delivery initiatives as well.
But getting past the onesie/twosie patchwork of pilot programs requires clarity of regulations from the FAA so delivery companies and drone startups know exactly how to proceed on a national level. There’s still a ways to go before we’re getting our burritos flown directly to our doorstep, but the new FAA rules will help drones take off.