The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the country’s Department of Transportation have unveiled proposed rules for drone flights. The plan [PDF] aims to maintain aviation safety standards, but will also make it difficult for companies hoping to use drones as couriers.
According to the proposal, unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55lb (25kg) would only be allowed to fly between sunrise and sunset. Operators would be required to keep drones within line of sight beneath 500 feet, and prohibited from dropping cargo.
The rules would effectively kill Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery plans. Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice-president of global public policy, told the Guardian: “The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers.
“We are committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need.”
While the proposed rules wouldn’t allow companies like Amazon to deliver orders using unmanned aircraft, it could open further opportunities for drones to be used in search and rescue, and in farming.
The rules will require operators to be at least 17 years of age and to obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate.
In addition, pilots will need to pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every two years and present their drones to the FAA for inspection upon request.
The proposal will be opened to public consultation before it is implemented, which could take up to two years. Until that process is completed, the current rules governing unmanned aircraft will remain in effect.
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