Amazon Delivery Drones May Be Stopped By Planned Federal Aviation Rules

By Matthew Buzzi , Updated Nov 28, 2014 02:37 PM EST

The Amazon delivery drones that amazed customers around the world when they were revealed months ago may not be as close to reality as the retail giant hopes.

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The issue comes not from technology or scalability, but potentially the law. The Federal Aviation Administration is planning to implement new rules that would largely inhibit the use of commercial drones, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The rules would demand that all operators have pilot licenses, and flight would be limited to daytime hours only. For something operating on as large a scale and busy a schedule as Amazon, those requirements would severely hamper business. The drones would also have to remain below 400 feet, and would be required to stay within sight of the operators.

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That last requirement may be the most damming, especially for large scale operations. Small and large businesses alike will be affected by the rules, but the requirement of keeping drones in sight is a conundrum for delivery services. Additionally, all of these things will increase cost and decrease efficiency, making it even more difficult for small companies.

The WSJ quotes Ryan Calo, a University of Washington law professor who studies robotics policy, as saying, "If they were going to have one pilot for each drone, they might as well put someone on a bicycle and send them over to your house."

Unfortunately for those excited about drone delivery, even if slightly hyperbolic, Calo's words seem pretty accurate. That combination of rules doesn't just make things more difficult--it may very well make them entirely implausible.

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