FAA plans final regulation on commercial drone use by mid-2016

June 18, 2015 03:02 PM

(Bloomberg)—The Federal Aviation Administration intends to issue final regulations for operating small commercial drones by the middle of 2016, a top administrator told a U.S. House committee Wednesday.

“The rule will be in place within the year,” FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker said at the House Oversight Committee hearing. He said, “hopefully before June 17, 2016.”

While the FAA has previously said it was seeking to complete the rule as swiftly as possible, Whitaker’s comments in answering lawmakers’ questions are the most specific yet about timing.

Companies such as Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, are waiting for the FAA to draw up a final set of rules that would regulate the use of small commercial drones weighing less than 55 pounds.

Currently, most commercial drone operations aren’t permitted while the FAA finalizes its regulations. The agency has granted 590 waivers letting small drones fly for hire, provided they are operated during daylight and within sight of the operator.

Those regulations would bar services like Amazon Prime Air, a delivery option that flies packages more than 10 miles from distribution centers to consumers in less than 30 minutes, said Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy at Amazon.

While Amazon’s relationship with the FAA hasn’t always been smooth, Misener told lawmakers the company is pleased that the FAA has streamlined its approval process and the company has been able to perform test flights in the U.S.

“I think we have turned that corner,” he said.

Although Whitaker said he expects the FAA will complete its work on the rule by the end of the year, the White House Office of Management and Budget also needs to review the standard and can ask the agency for revisions.



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