Drones' Wings Clipped

FAA rules


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a proposal for how to regulate drones for private and business use. According to the document, such drones must weigh less than 55 pounds, stay below 500 feet, only operate in daylight, remain in eyesight of the operator unaided by anything but glasses, not fly over anyone not involved with the operation, fly at less than 100 miles per hour, and be marked for identification purposes, among other requirements.

The operators would also be subject to regulation: They would be required to be over age 17, pass an aeronautical exam every two years, clear a background check, and make their drones available for inspection.

The rules all but quash the ability of companies to use drones to deliver packages, as Amazon has long wanted to do. In response to the FAA's announcement, the online retail giant said it still intends to use drones for delivery, though only in countries that don't prohibit such activity. Meanwhile, smaller companies—which might have relied on drones to drive new and innovative business models—will have one less tool at their disposal.

After the proposal appeared, the Mercatus Institute technology policy scholar Adam Thierer wrote: "You can't read through these 200 pages of regulations without getting [the] sense that the FAA still wishes that private drones would just go away."