Business

New FAA doc forbids drones from delivering Amazon packages, beer, & flowers

Above: Not today, Amazon.

Image Credit: Amazon

Has the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rendered a new decision about Amazon’s planned drone delivery service?

A new document from the federal agency brought to light yesterday for public comment is gaining attention since it indirectly prohibits the kind of super cool drone delivery service retail giant Amazon first presented to the world in a 60 Minutes story earlier this year.

The 17-page document relates primarily to the agency’s interpretation of drones that qualify as “model aircraft.” This is particularly important because the FAA is prohibited from issuing any rule or regulation about a model aircraft.

In addition to certain specs –– the weight of the device, for instance –– the model aircraft must be flown strictly for “hobby or recreational use.” The document includes a table showing activities that are clearly “hobby or recreation,” and those that are not:

From the FAA document

Above: From the FAA document

Image Credit: FAA

One of the “Not Hobby or Recreation” activities — “delivering packages to people for a fee” — is being taken as a specific slam on Amazon’s proposal. (A footnote highlights that free shipping by a business is the same thing.)

“The information in the recent FAA notice is not new,” FAA spokesperson Alison Duquette told VentureBeat today. “It simply clarifies the ‘do’s and don’ts’ for model aircraft operators so they can fly safely in accordance with the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.”

Matt Waite, head of the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska, agrees.

“It’s never been under debate whether [Amazon drone delivery] was allowed,” Waite told VentureBeat, noting that CEO Jeff Bezos has acknowledged as much. “Amazon already knew it had to wait.”

Instead of targeting Amazon, Waite said, the new document is really aimed at several small companies that have been using drones commercially.

He pointed to the Lake Maid Beer Co. in northern Minnesota. That company was conducting a specifically Minnesota-style version of a drone delivery service, which air-shuttled beer to ice fisherman. (Now, there’s going to be some — how shall we put it? — dry ice up north.)

Other small businesses being targeted in the document include a drone delivery service for flowers near Detroit and a pharmaceuticals-by-drone operation in San Francisco, Waite said.

Via Ars Technica

More about the companies and people from this article:

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle, opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and today offers Earth's Biggest Selection. Amazon.com, Inc. seeks to be Earth's most customer-centric company, where cu... read more »

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22 comments
Joseph Heitzler
Joseph Heitzler

People, Don't be so pessimistic! The FAA is currently working on developing regulations that will pave the way for commercial use of drones. It is only illegal right now. For more info check out www.droneshine.com 

Mike Drips
Mike Drips

FAA = USA only! Amazon does business in other countries, so their drone idea isn't dead.

Gilby Rudolph
Gilby Rudolph

A good ruling IMO.  Even model aircraft are restricted to certain areas because of the bother to residents.  However, drones would make great targets for gun enthusiasts so I'm kind of torn on this one.


Actually, this technology will remain a dream probably forever.   Until the weather can be controlled, these things would only be able to deliver on absolutely calm days when there is no wind, hail, blowing snow, etc.  What kind of service is that? The high cost of losing a drone (probably many tens of thousands) is not worth the profit from delivery of a 6 pack.

Nitin Bansal
Nitin Bansal

The guys at FAA are seriously a bunch of losers who just cannot stand competition... As they showed earlier with BitCoin

Nitin Bansal
Nitin Bansal

Isn't this capitalism? How the hell is this going to foster innovation?

Klancy Kennedy
Klancy Kennedy

Plans aren't allowed to fly as low as drones, so I fail to see the problem or even why that agency has any power.

Ryan McCown
Ryan McCown

There are so many things you could steal everyday--but you don't. 1) it's illegal 2) the drone can be tracked very easy 3) it can turn on and fly away as an escape.

Andrew Skaper
Andrew Skaper

Leave it to the government to put the fu in fun.

Bryan Sattler
Bryan Sattler

I hope this is just because they don't know what regulations to set and they change their mind in the near future

Nosha Monteiro da Cunha
Nosha Monteiro da Cunha

Amazon.com has become way too greedy. Cutting way too many "middle men". Congrats to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Chris Balog
Chris Balog

First your dealing with the FAA that speaks for it self. Delivering Booze Really, let's see if your under 21 It sounds to good to be true

Richard Li
Richard Li

How would Amazon have prevented people from stealing the drones?