Google this week asked the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission to test out the use of drones for monitoring and fighting fires. The request comes as the FAA slowly expands sanctioned drone use in the US. Specifically, Google's Research Climate and Energy Group said it wants to run tests using the HSE-UAV M8A Pro unmanned aircraft system -- a crop-spraying drone built by Homeland Surveillance & Electronics. The Google Research group plans to test fire-fighting and monitoring operations at a private property in Firebaugh, California. Google's sister company, the Alphabet-owned Wing, already has FAA approval to test out commercial drone deliveries.
The FAA has authorized its first-ever approval to a company for use of automated drones without human operators on site. The move comes as the agency is putting new rules in place to evolve regulation of the broader enterprise drone paradigm in the U.S., which has lagged behind other developed nations in adopting industry-friendly commercial drone guidelines. Boston-based American Robotics, a developer of automated drone systems specializing in rugged environments, received the FAA approval last week, marking a first for the federal agency. "Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition," says Reese Mozer, CEO and co-founder of American Robotics. "We are proud to be the first company to meet the FAA's comprehensive safety requirements, which had previously restricted the viability of drone use in the commercial sector."
You can officially claim autonomous commercial drones for your 2021 bingo card. On Friday, Massachusetts-based industrial drone developer American Robotics announced it had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate its fully-automated "Scout" drones without any humans on-site. It's the first waiver of its kind, as the FAA has previously approved the use of autonomous commercial drones exclusively under the condition that human observers be present along the flight path -- or that risk of collision be mitigated through otherwise hyper-strict limitations. Advocates of drone technology say those restrictions have long held the industry back. "Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition," CEO and co-founder of American Robotics Reese Mozer said in a press release.
U.S. aviation regulators have approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights, granting a small Massachusetts-based company permission to operate drones without hands-on piloting or direct observation by human controllers or observers. The decision by the Federal Aviation Administration limits operation of automated drones to rural areas and altitudes below 400 feet, but is a potentially significant step in expanding commercial applications of drones for farmers, utilities, mining companies and other customers. It also represents another step in the FAA's broader effort to authorize widespread flights by shifting away from case-by-case exemptions for specific vehicles performing specific tasks. In approval documents posted on a government website Thursday, the FAA said that once such automated drone operations are conducted on a wider scale, they could mean "efficiencies to many of the industries that fuel our economy such as agriculture, mining, transportation" and certain manufacturing segments. The FAA previously allowed drones to inspect railroad tracks, pipelines and some industrial sites beyond the sight of pilots or spotters on the ground as long as such individuals were located relatively close by.
In the last week of December, while many of us were sleeping off a bizarre holiday season after a long, wearying year, the FAA announced final rules for Unmanned Aircraft (UA), more commonly known as drones. The new rules, which have long been anticipated and were closely watched in the sector, will require Remote Identification (Remote ID) of drones and allow operators of small drones to fly over people and at night under certain conditions. On the one had, the relaxation of the strict embargo on small drones flying over people is a boon to a commercial small drone sector that's been chomping at the bit to catch up to international markets in areas like drone delivery. And clear guidance from the FAA, which has been cautious about issuing new rulemaking when it comes to drones, is going to help what has become the fastest-growing segment in the transportation sector (there are currently over 1.7 million drones registered with the FAA). But there's been a vocal cry of disappointment by some in the drone sector, including Alphabet's Wing team, which sees a major privacy flaw in the FAA's new framework.
Alphabet's Wing is less than thrilled with the FAA's new rules for drone'license plates,' and it's pushing for significant changes. Reuters and The Verge report that the drone delivery company has attacked the rules for remote IDs, warning that they might have "unintended consequences" for privacy. Wing argued that the requirement to use locally broadcast remote IDs made it possible to infer "sensitive information" about drone flights and their users, such as where people live or pick up their packages. Internet-based network remote IDs would protect against this kind of privacy intrusion, the company said, claiming that Americans wouldn't accept that potential spying on their "deliveries or taxi trips." The firm also contended that broadcast IDs made it harder to create large-scale drone traffic control systems.
Federal officials say they will allow operators to fly small drones over people and at night, potentially giving a boost to commercial use of the machines. Most drones will need to be equipped so they can be identified remotely by law enforcement officials. The final rules announced by the Federal Aviation Administration "get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages," said FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson. Drones are the fastest-growing segment in all of transportation, with more than 1.7 million under registration, according to the Transportation Department. However, the widespread commercial use of the machines has developed far more slowly than many advocates expected.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced new rules Monday that would ease restrictions on the use of drones and will likely expand commercial uses of the technology down the road. The Federal Aviation Administration announced new rules Monday that would ease restrictions on the use of drones and will likely expand commercial uses of the technology down the road. Federal regulators have issued new guidelines allowing drones to operate at night and over people -- a change in the rules that could expand the use of the machines for commercial deliveries. The new rules from the Federal Aviation Administration will also require remote identification technology so that the machines can be identifiable from the ground. The FAA said this standard will address security concerns and make drones easier to track.
With rotors whirring and airframes hurling through the air, drones can be very dangerous when flights don't go as planned. There's been much teeth gnashing over the FAA's measured approach to commercial drone policy adoption, but the fact is there are real dangers, including from bad actors using inexpensive GPS jammers. GPS signal jamming technology is evolving, decreasing in size and cost. Today, jammers can be bought online for as low as $50. Long a threat to military assets, jamming is now a commercial concern as commercial drone deliveries become a reality, and attacks are becoming pervasive globally.
Amazon has laid off "dozens" of employees working on the firm's drone project while also seeking out manufacturing deals with third-parties. The Financial Times reported on Thursday that the e-commerce giant is axing staff involved in the Prime Air drone program's research, development, and manufacturing units. According to sources close to the matter, Amazon is still "years away" from the project properly lifting off the ground. See also: Amazon's Prime Air drone delivery system earns key FAA certification First revealed in 2013, Amazon Prime Air aims to use octocopter drones to deliver small parcels ordered through the Amazon e-commerce platform in as little as 30 minutes. While the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently granted Amazon permission to begin testing customer drone deliveries in the US -- four years after the company agreed to a partnership with the UK government to "explore the steps needed to make the delivery of parcels by small drones a reality" -- it seems a shake-up is in order.