A recent conference at the White House looked into the future use of drones in the U.S. airspace. Michael Huerta, the Federal Aviation Administration director told the crowd that there have been more than 500,000 drones registered since December with the agency.
The FAA mandated at the end of last year that individuals who wish to fly a consumer drone that weighs more than 0.5lbs has to get a five-dollar registration number from the FAA. There was a month-long grace period where the FAA refunded people that registered. If the FAA collected all the fees from people that did register, is would have brought in about $2.5 million.
The FAA stated that it took over 100 years for the roughly 320,000 aircraft to get registered with U.S. officials. The use of drones has surpassed this is a matter of months. A consumer drone ID much smaller than the average plane, hot-air balloon or helicopter, but this is a great statistic for the agency as it has been criticised in the past for moving slowly to adapt to regulations that account for the growing use of drones.
The agency announced its regulations on the use of commercial drones in June. This stated how businesses can legally and safely operate drones. This is stated to go into effect on August 29th. The rules were quite comprehensive but outlawed the use of a drone behind the line of sight of the user. This means that companies like Wal-Mart, Alphabet, and Amazon that wants to use drones for delivery purposes can’t do this unless the pilot walks alongside the drone. This means that drone delivery is effectively a useless venture.
The conference did state that there were discussions about the use of drones beyond the line of sight in the future. The FAA is in the process of testing services that use this feature. It approved a drone delivery service by Flirtey last month and the 7-Elevent store to deliver snacks to a household located in Arizona.
As consumer and commercial drone use continues to expand in the future, there will need to be a system in place that can manage the influx of these drones in the U.S. airspace. There are going to be used for fun, work, and other uses so a system will be needed to manage them effectively. NASA and the FAA are working together to develop a system. The White House has the commitment to help with the integration of drones into the U.S. airspace as quickly as it can. Since there’s now a regulatory framework developed, more companies can look to using drones in their business. There are already 5,000 that are using them now. It remains to be seen when a consumer or business will be able to fly a drone beyond their line of sight.