President Trump’s started the 90-day clock that will give the FAA the right to set a national standard for pilot drone operations in all 50 states.
The White House issued an Executive Order authorizing the Secretary of Transportation to work with state, municipal and tribal authorities to establish a national ‘Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program’ within the next 90-days. The UAS standard will harmonize regulation to “promote safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and speed the development of UAS technologies” for private and public applications.
President Trump added in his statement: “Our Nation will move faster, fly higher, and soar proudly toward the next great chapter of American aviation.”
The use of UAS, referred to as drones, by individuals and organizations is regulated by a jumble of federal and state laws, plus several states passed laws allowing counties, cities, and towns to also regulate UAS. Consequently, it is not unusual for agriculture, commerce, emergency management, human transportation, and other economic sectors to be subject to 3 or 4 levels of laws, according to the Rupprecht Law’s regulatory blog.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that has jurisdiction of the skies, has restricted operation to a height of under 400 feet and must be in “line-of-sight. The FAA has also approved over 1,300 commercial distance waivers and issued a permanent exemption to CNN to fly over crowds. But operators in all cases must comply with all federal, state and municipal drone, and aviation laws. Some counties even require that operators must gain permission from impacted homeowner associations.
The FAA requires commercial drone pilots to pass a rigorous test to be licensed. But to understand how fast the industry has taken off, the U.S. already has over 37,000 licensed drone operators and over 1 million registered drones.
Ark Industrial Research reveals that the current price to deliver a 5-pound package distances of up to 10 miles on the same day is $12.92 by UPS; $8.32 by FedEx Ground; and $5.25 by U.S. Post Office Next Day Priority. But they estimate that the cost to deliver the same package in 30 minutes would be $.88 by Amazon Drone.
Ark projects that Amazon already has over 400 million Amazon Prime shipments to US customers that would qualify for drone delivery. Given the low cost of quad-copter commercial drones and its infrastructure support, Amazon could cover most metropolitan markets for an investment of about $130 million and about $350 million in operating costs. If Amazon priced the service at $1, the company would break even in the first year and generate about a 50 percent return on investment.
Under the proposed Department of Transportation pilot programs, innovation zones will be established for testing complex UAS operations and to integrate drones for the “delivery of life-saving medicines and commercial packages, inspections of critical infrastructure, support for emergency management operations, and surveys of crops for precision agriculture applications.”