FAA Begins Exploring How to Allow Drone Flights Over Crowded Cities

Tech companies like Amazon and Google have been aggressively advocating for drone delivery over the past few years. They wanted the Federal Aviation Administration to provide them with a set of rules they could test against, a safety standard they needed to meet in order to safely fly over populated areas. The FAA largely remained mum on the issue, but that’s about to change. On Wednesday it asked a task force composed of stakeholders from both the private and public sectors to produce a report by April 1st with recommendations about how to safely allow drone flights over people.

“The Department continues to be bullish on new technology,” said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We recognize the significant industry interest in expanding commercial access to the National Airspace System. The short deadline reinforces our commitment to a flexible regulatory approach that can accommodate innovation while maintaining today’s high levels of safety.”

The approach to this new set of rules shows the FAA is listening closely to Amazon and Google. “Based on the comments about a ‘micro’ classification submitted as part of the small UAS proposed rule, the FAA will pursue a flexible, performance-based regulatory framework that addresses potential hazards instead of a classification defined primarily by weight and speed,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. That is exactly what the big tech companies asked for aggressively when laying out their plans at CES earlier this year.

There is no telling how long it will take the rule-making committee to return with a plan after they receive this report. But the FAA moved aggressively to implement the suggestions a similar task force made around drone registration. Drones might be helping to pick up your garbage sooner than you think.

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