The Senate issued a bipartisan proposal to authorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to speed drone delivery approval, Bloomberg reported last week.
- The proposal would allow the FAA to issue carrier certificates for drone deliveries, and would bring drone technology one step closer to commercial usage, although it would still prohibit drone flights over people.
- In response, the Commercial Drone Alliance noted it was glad to see progress toward allowing commercial drone operations in the FAA bill. The alliance said it plans to study the bill carefully.
The anticipation of drone adoption for commercial delivery is mounting as final formal approval remains elusive.
Years have passed since the technology was first proposed as a means of last-mile delivery, with the occasional but successful test in the interim. Amazon continues patenting new adaptations for its eventual drone delivery system, currently proposing a sort of dock resembling a dwelling for homing birds, wherein the flying machines can be reloaded with items for delivery. Most recently, hobbyist drone users have won the right not to have to register their craft with the FAA. Experts predict, however, that remote identification of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for law enforcement will still be required.
For all its promise, however, approval of regular everyday usage of drones has a long way to go. Most if not all of its proponents have extremely limited readiness, and are still conducting tests to ensure operational, technical and logistical accuracy. Sensors, and their ability to avoid various objects remain in need of improvement. A recent test by UPS revealed just how far drones have to go: one of those tested during the demonstration failed to launch at all.
Drone delivery has to do better than that before it can realistically be offered as a true alternative for last mile delivery, experts say.