Amazon and Google will fight new drone rules

Steven Loeb · February 24, 2015 · Short URL:

Tech companies are hiring lobbyists to convince the FAA that regulations aren't needed

The Federal Aviation Administration recently released new guidelines on operating drones, which, without saying so outright, pretty much banned any kind of commercial usage.

This put companies like Amazon and Google in a tight spot, as both have made drones a central part of their future plans. Of course, those companies have a lot of money and so they will do what any company in their position would: they are going to try to change the rules to benefit them.

Over the next 60 days, the FAA will be taking public comments on the proposed new rules, and a slew of industries, including tech firms, as well as aerospace companies and some in the news media, have already hired lobbyists to try to get regulators to change their minds, according to a report out from Reuters. 

Some of the rules that they are fighting against include restricting drones to daylight hours, making it so the operator of the drone has to be able to see the it while it is flying, and now allowing them to fly over people "not directly involved in the operation." See how that would make using them for anything other than personal use pretty much impossible?

They will try to convince regulators that technology that they have been working on features to make some of the limitations that were proposed unnecessary. That includes the ability to sense other aircrafts, and avoid collisions, and the ability for drones to not lose contact even if it goes out of sight. Amazon is already making drones that can use GPS navigation, and will also come equipped with sensors to avoid crashes.

Amazon has a particularly high stake in this: it announced in 2013 that it wanted to start delivering packages via drone.

The Federal Aviation Administration expressly forbade the practice, though, stating that any unmanned aerial vehicle not used for hobby or recreation, i.e. a commercial business like Amazon’s, was to remain illegal in the United States. Amazon asked for an exemption, but so far the FAA seems to be sticking to its guns.

There is also a lot of money  at stake. Funding for startups in the drone space more than doubled in 2014 growing by 104%. Overall, $108 million was invested in a total of 29 deals during the year. The number of  deals has jumped very quickly in just the last couple of years; a total of just five deals were done in the years spanning 2010 to 2012 combined, while 11 were completed in the third quarter of 2014 alone.

Even more money was spent on lobbying efforts for the industry; $186 million in total, up from only $35 million in 2011.

A battle seems to be brewing over companies with a lot of vested interest in using drones to their advantage, and government regulators who are clearly uncomfortable with the potential ramifications of that.

Where do you stand on the issue? Sound off in the comments!

VatorNews has reached out to Google and Amazon for comment on the report. We will update this story if we learn more. 

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