Amazon on the FAA: Slower Than Europe

Red tape continues to tether commercial drones.


I want to build a little landing pad for them on my window ledge.

When your agency's red tape is compared to the regulatory nannies of Europe—particularly the United Kingdom—and you're the one who ends up looking bad, maybe it's time for a major rethinking of things.

It turns out that the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) limited approval of a particular unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for Amazon to start doing R&D on drone deliveries is irrelevant. It took so long for the FAA to get its act together (a year for approval), and technological innovations are happening so quickly that the model the FAA approved is now obsolete. Amazon doesn't even fly it anymore.

That's the message Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president of global public policy, had for a Senate subcommittee this week. Furthermore, FAA's foot-dragging in establishing reasonable private, commercial drone regulations is putting it behind European countries, some of whom are not exactly known for a free-wheeling approach to public safety. As reported by Ryan Mac at Forbes:

Dressed in a light gray suit and removing his glasses to address the senators, Misener stressed the differences between the U.S. and places like Europe, where the company is already testing outdoors in the United Kingdom. "Nowhere outside of the United States have we been required to wait more than one or two months to begin testing," he said. That was supported by Senator Cory Booker, who passionately suggested that if the FAA been around during the time of the Wright brothers, other countries would have had commercial planes flying before a U.S. aircraft got off the ground.

We're behind the United Kingdom, guys. They have rules for everything. But they've actually been pretty good at embracing cutting-edge transportation innovations. As Peter Suderman noted in February, the United Kingdom is really pushing to get driverless vehicle technology on the road.

Booker is apparently working on reducing commercial frustrations about drone policies (or rather the blanket ban that has been the result of a lack of policies). According to Forbes, he's trying to craft legislation that would allow commercial use of drones while the FAA continues its incredibly slow process of hammering out regulations. The FAA just recently authorized an interim policy to allow more flights below 200 feet, but a commercial drone lobbying group representative said at the hearing the move wasn't nearly enough.