Proposed commercial drone rules would ban robotic couriers

Dragan Flyer X4

If you were worried that the Federal Aviation Administration would require a pilot's license before you could fly a drone for professional reasons, you can relax... well, sort of. The FAA has published its proposed commercial drone rules, and they're a bit more lenient than some had feared. The good news? You wouldn't need a license to fly any drone under 55 pounds; instead, you'd take an "aeronautical knowledge" (read: airspace rules) test every two years and get an operator certificate. And if you're flying model airplanes that fit existing criteria, you'd only be bound by current laws.

Unfortunately, the other rules are still pretty onerous to companies whose businesses might revolve around unmanned aircraft. You'd have to maintain a line of sight to your drone at all times, for one thing -- robotic courier services like Amazon's PrimeAir are impossible under the proposal. You'd also have to fly in daylight, stay under 500 feet and travel no faster than 100MPH. The rules are open to public comments over the next 60 days and certainly aren't set in stone yet, but it's pretty clear that the FAA is more concerned with air traffic safety than flexibility. If these rules come into effect as they are, commercial drones would largely be limited to short-distance tasks like news gathering and monitoring farms.