Monday, February 16, 2015

Here Come the Drones

New rules could allow limited, commercial deliveries.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 16, 2015 at 10:01 AM

A couple of years from now, that pepperoni pizza you ordered might just be delivered by drone, provided your pizzeria is within sight of your house.

Over the weekend, the Federal Aviation Administration released potential rules that could allow thousands of businesses to use drones, within some tight limits.

Anyone could apply for an FAA permit to fly drones commercially for about $200, but you’d need to pass a proficiency test. You must keep the drone in your sight and it can’t go higher than 500 feet or faster than 100 mph. Also, its payload can’t weigh more than 55 pounds -- which should cover extra large pizzas with every topping known to humanity.

Not likely to be permitted in the near-term are deliveries from Amazon, which has a large distribution center south of Richmond in Chesterfield County. That’s because of the rule that the drone pilot must keep the drone within eyesight.

Drone use has taken off spectacularly but there are plenty of safety concerns. Not that long ago, a flock of geese took down a U.S. Airways passenger jet in New York. The pilot saved everyone by making a spectacular landing in the Hudson River. Errant drones could cause the same accident.

Also over the weekend, President Barack Obama announced that he would publicly disclose where federal agencies are flying drones. That presumably would include my house in Chesterfield because a Navy drone zipped over my backyard a few years ago while I watched in amazement.

Over time, broader permitting of commercial drones is likely.

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