What’s In President Trump’s New Drone Program?
Everything You Need To Know
The new plan recently introduced by President Donald Trump may speed up the move for companies like Google and Amazon to begin offering doorstep delivery for everything from tangerines to diapers. Tribal authorities would work alongside local and state agencies under this plan to help the federal government create drone regulations for commercial flying.
In August 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) first released a set of rules dictating how businesses can use drones to monitor farms or take aerial photographs. As the national regulators of drones in the country’s airspace, these two have the final say—but since the enactment of these initial rules, some states have created their own regulations that conflict with the federal regulations on drone flying.
The Trump Administration plans to consider the changing technology of drones and its potential use for a variety of commercial flying scenarios that were not covered by the initial rules. They also intend to incorporate the thoughts of local and state officials to ensure the revised program covers all aspects and removes hurdles companies are facing in trying to use drones for better and faster service.
Some Key Points
Some of the key points that the drone plan intends to incorporate include:
Allowing companies to fly at night
Allowing companies to fly beyond the sight of human operators
Allowing companies to fly over people’s heads
These are all currently banned without previous approval to the operator. Allowing just these three things would be a huge step forward in letting companies fly drones for business purposes.
One of the things that initially drove this effort was the advocacy group Commercial Drone Alliance, who has been pushing for less restricting drone regulations since the start. The attorney with the alliance, Lisa Ellman, said that making these improvements to the rulebook would help “open up the skies to commercial drones.” She said the point of the meetings that are to come in crafting this plan “will help us gather data to inform future rule making.”
This drone program shouldn’t be expected to pop up overnight. With the complicated procedure of researching and changing the current regulations, this plan has a timespan of about three years for its implementation. However, that means that by 2020, we could all be enjoying same-day delivery of gadgets, essentials, and even foods directly to our door-step.
The cost has not yet been revealed, but advocates are positive that the changes will be put into place—even if the plan faces some delays do to the amount of research and input yet to be gathered. The DOT revealed that they will be overseeing at least 5 plans prepared by state and local officials. The end result will likely pull from multiple plans and be revised before going into the next step.
There are very few restrictions, as far as have been announced, as to who can create and submit a plan. The White House is allowing cities, states, and tribal authorities to submit their own plans, and this is encouraging states to advocate for opening up specific airspace that they know will best serve the local population.
While the majority of companies and government leaders are for this program and everything it will bring, that does not mean that corporate interests and state/local laws won’t butt heads. In fact, although this plan has been proposed, until it is enacted there is nothing to stop state and local officials from continuing to pass laws that conflict with and further restrict the drone usage regulations that federal governments have set.
This opposition has not been seen yet, but it’s something law makers could potentially impose.
What Could Happen?
If this plan goes into law, in three years, companies like Google and Amazon could see their current plans come into fruition once and for all. They have not released a full list of everything they have planned with drones, but some of the most touted ideas include the following:
Amazon intends to do same-day, door-step delivery with their drone delivery program. This allows people in Seattle and other large cities near an Amazon warehouse to receive same-day shipping for any Amazon item. It’s likely this Drone Delivery program will be it’s own membership for qualifying members or it may perhaps be covered by Amazon’s current Prime level membership which already gives customers free 2-day delivery by UPS.
UPS and other shipping companies are likely to begin implementing drone delivery into some aspect of their shipping program, likely as its own specific shipping type. For instance, instead of ordering UPS next day for a package going a little ways away, you could request drone delivery for packages that will be near a distribution office. While studies are still lacking, drone delivery is thought to be able to save millions each year compared to traditional local delivery methods (i.e., truck or car) and it will also be faster.
It’s interested to note that, beyond shipping, this drone plan will also bring about many other possibilities for companies to begin taking full advantage of the flexibility and cost effectiveness of drones. While companies are staying hushed about their plans, it can be assumed that they are keeping at it as far as perfecting the technology so that they will be ready to launch when this plan is eventually implemented.
One of the things Google and Amazon are working towards separately is creating an automated drone flying and delivery system. Just like Amazon’s shipping warehouses are currently ran by smart robots that take order information, collect the items, box them, and get them shipped out, it’s likely that the last step (the shipping) will also be automated once regulations are lifted. That means Amazon will have an automated drone system that can scan packages for the delivery address and direct them accordingly.
The biggest restriction, of course, is that drones will be flying locally only. Trucks and planes will still be used to get packages from, say, the Amazon distribution center in Georgia to a customer in Idaho. But, for those who live near an Amazon distribution center, there is a real possibility they’ll begin getting drone deliveries in as little as 3 years.