Sunday, March 18, 2012

FAA Grants Approval for Fleet of 300 Commercial Drones

GPS drone (UAS) with GoPro camera

GPS drone (UAS) with GoPro camera; Creative Commons image courtesy Don McCullough

The use of drones both commercially and privately has been a pretty hot topic in the last year or so, with plenty of corporations and government entities standing on either side of the line. While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been granting permission for a few companies to use drones in a commercial manner, this week marks the first time that the FAA has granted a mass exemption which allows a fleet of drones to operate commercially.

The exemption was granted to the company Measure, which intends to use the drones for “data  collection.” The exemption allows the use of a fleet of more than 300 different types of drones which can be applied in a broad range of commercial purposes. Measure focuses primarily on data in various markets including agriculture, energy, insurance and infrastructure so the drones will likely not be flying over civilians. Part of Measure’s business revolves around the use of drones.

The exemption from the FAA does, of course, come with some conditions such as an altitude ceiling for drones, restricted areas and requirements for human operators to keep a close watch on drones. Still, this is definitely a landmark exemption that might be the first step towards drones zipping over cities performing various tasks or even deliveries.

As you are probably aware, Amazon has been extremely aggressive about the topic of commercial drone delivery and while the first FAA approved drone delivery happened in July, Amazon still hasn’t been able to wrangle approval for mass deliveries of drones. However, I can’t help but think that this most recent fleet exemption is a step in the right direction. Slowly but surely, the drones are coming.

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