Companies from Amazon to Domino's want to use drones to improve their delivery services. This is no flight of fancy; major publicly traded firms have sunk serious money into figuring out how to best deploy unmanned aerial vehicles to get their books, boxes, and pizza to customers as quickly and cheaply as possible.
The primary barrier between Internet buyers and a sky humming with helpful robots: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). At the moment, drones are only legally allowed to fly after obtaining a special permit from the regulatory body-and getting such a permit is nearly impossible for commercial operators. Because of that, many companies have been pushing for regulations, assuming that the resulting clarity would be better than the current case-by-case uncertainty.
The FAA has been promising to release general guidelines for years, but it has so far failed to do so. Leaked details suggest that the coming rules will be excessive, requiring operators to possess pilot licenses and to have logged time in the cockpit of a plane-hardly relevant experience for overseeing what are essentially model helicopters, some of them as small as three pounds.
"The anticipated regulatory approach is simply a mismatch for the new technology, a top-down approach based on laws created in the 1950s to prevent midair passenger jet collisions," Brendan Schulman, a New York attorney who specializes in laws governing unmanned aircraft, told The Washington Post.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Drones Downed?".