We’ve been hearing about drone deliveries for some time now, but once the idea of autonomous vehicle deliveries caught on, drone deliveries seem to be all but forgotten.
However, the idea of drone deliveries, specifically for places like Amazon, may be catching on again. The Federal Aviation Administration for the first time approved a “beyond line of sight” drone flight. This happens to be a major hangup with getting delivery drones in the air.
Beyond the LIne of Sight Drone Flights
Amazon made a big splash talking about the possibility of drone deliveries. In fact, the company has already been running the Prime Air service in limited places in Europe, but the FAA hasn’t approved drone deliveries for the United States yet because they would need to be “beyond the line of sight.”
The FAA until now has only allowed flights by drones if the operators were able to keep an eye on the aircraft at all times. Even one-time waivers used this same rule. That made Amazon’s delliveries not feasible.
But recently the FAA approved a drone flight in Alaska over an oil pipeline that was beyond the line of sight. While only a test, it was nevertheless important that it happened at all.
“This is the first time detect-and-avoid technology is approved by an aviation authority as reliable enough to allow for BVLOS [beyond visiual lineof sight] drone oeprations,” said Iris Autonomation CEO Aleander Harmsen in a statement.
The benefit for companies such as Amamzon is that it would allow them to complete the delivereis much more quickly. Amazon said it could be done in as little as thirty minutes, thanks to a new drone design that was announced in June. The company said it would be officially launching the new design within months.
What is being allowed instead of drone deliveries in the United States are small and full-size autonomous delivery vehicles. These are being tested in isolated communities. And, of course, for Amazon, they’ve already surpassed deliveries by traditional methods. Many times their Prime service delivers in their own (manned) delivery trucks or sometimes drivers even make deilveries in their own vehicles.
But with the FAA relaxing the standards for the test flight, it seems drone deliveries may not be that far behind. And once they are welcome in the E.U. and U.S., it makes it just that much more closer for it to be opened up to the rest of the world.
But there is still one other big limitation other than the FAA’s “beyond the line of sight rule.” At this time any package to be delivered by the drones Amazon uses needs to be five pounds or less. This means more traditional vehciles will need to be used until the company can figure out how to deliver heavier objects by air.
How soon do you think drone deliveries will be widely accepted everywhere? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Image Creidt: Amazon