Congress considers delivery drones regulation

Delivery drones could be licensed to fly in the US within 2 years, with a new law passing through Congress that instructs the Federal Aviation Authority to create a final rule for them within this period.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill passed through the Senate yesterday. Senator John Thune, the Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, said: “Passage of this bipartisan legislation is a win for airline passenger rights, advancing responsible drone usage, boosting the competitiveness of the aerospace industry, and making our skies safer.

Thune added: “I look forward to considering these reforms on the Senate floor and building consensus with our colleagues in the House.” (In order to be enacted, legislation has to be passed by full members’ votes in both the Senate and House of Representatives, and signed by the President.)

The amendment which calls for the Secretary of Transportation to issue a final rule for delivery drones was proposed by Senators Dean Heller and Maria Cantwell and it passed by a roll call vote of 18 to 4.

The amendment to the Bill said that the FAA should establish a certificate for drone operators who want to use the machines to make deliveries, and further specifies that the certification process should consider “safety risks” and their “mitigation”.

Senator Heller is one of the Senators from Nevada, which is one of six states that has congressionally mandated drone test sites.

The Reauthorization Bill also contains many other drone related sections – including one on “unmanned aircraft systems in the Arctic” – and also proposals to give the UAS test sites more autonomy and flexibility to partner with industry.

Regulation is one of the biggest hurdles for delivery companies to tackle before delivery drones become a reality. That the US Congress is taking them so seriously suggests that they may well be buzzing from Amazon as the viral promotional video suggests…