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The Federal Aviation Administration is considering new rules regarding drones that could pull the plug on Amazon’s plans for drone delivery of merchandise in the future. The FAA proposed safety rules for small commercial drones flying as unmanned aerial vehicles are supposed to reduce the dangers of unmanned vehicles flying in residential areas and flying close to restricted area.
It was believed to be only a matter of time before the FAA put some rules into place for flying drones after numerous instances of questionable use of the vehicles, including crashing one on the lawn of the White House.
While nothing will become official until after a period of public comment, the new rules are expected to allow some companies to move forward with everyday use of drones with qualified operators willing to follow the basic guidelines being put into place. Under the current rules, it’s illegal for companies to operate drones in the United States.
Companies must get a specific exemption from the FAA to fly commercially, but only a few companies have managed to obtain them so far. The new rule that will affect Amazon the most would be the rule that drones would not be allowed to operate beyond the pilot’s line of sight.
Amazon is understandably concerned about the new rules. Amazon had previously planned to implement drones as delivery vehicles to deliver packages faster over short distances. Amazon now faces serious competition from other on-line retailers and traditional retailers that have combined on-line retailing with physical retailing.
Amazon also operates under very thin profit margins when compared to its competitors, currently 0.20 percent for Amazon compared to 2.62 percent for Best Buy, 4.55 percent for Target, and 5.49 percent for Wal-Mart.
The FAA’s other proposed rules do not come as a surprise to most. Anyone operating a drone for a private company will need to pass an “aeronautical knowledge” test and obtain a FAA certification, to be renewed every two years to remain valid.
Small consumer drones will be exempted from the certification rules as model aircraft, meaning no licensing, training, or identification required from most to fly the small aircraft. Under the current proposal, taxpayer funded drones will have to reveal what they do with any data collected during aerial surveillance and federal agencies will have to disclose when and where their drones fly.