Book and food deliveries by drones, such as those unveiled by Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, may be grounded under rules U.S. regulators are writing.
The Federal Aviation Administration plans to bar operation of unmanned aircraft flying a computerized flight path instead of being controlled by a person, according to an agency document released Nov. 7 outlining plans for integrating the vehicles into the nation’s airways.
Small drones, like the one demonstrated by Bezos on CBS’s “60 Minutes” news program, are expected to have separate rules requiring they be flown within sight of an operator and only in unpopulated areas, Ben Gielow, general counsel of the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International, an Arlington, Virginia-based trade group, said in an interview.
“It’s unclear whether those commercial purposes will be allowed,” Gielow said.
It may take a decade for the FAA and the unmanned aircraft industry to craft workable rules that ensure the safety and reliability of autonomous drones that deliver pizza and books, John Hansman, an aeronautics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied drones, said in an interview.
In the early stages of such delivery systems, costs will be so high that drones will only be practical for task such as dispatching emergency medical supplies, Hansman said.
“You have to have appropriate controls,” he said. “You don’t want to create safety problems. But the technology will advance. These things will get extremely reliable.”
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