FAA_National_Drone_Safety_Awareness_Week

Drone deliveries are the topic for the FAA’s fourth day of the Drone safety awareness week. The week runs from November 4th through 10th, 2019. Drone safety is in our hands, you know this, you control your drone and ensure it is handled safely. From the FAA’s perspective, there is more to a safe flight than just making sure you don’t crash, they have many rules and regulations for drones, all designed around safety for other air traffic, as well as for people on the ground below.

Day four of the FAA’s Drone safety awareness week is for Business — Commercial and Medical Package Delivery.

We recently took a lengthy look at the difficulties a company faces to launch a successful drone delivery business, they are many. Some of the early news-making deliveries are for medical supplies, which is fantastic, but commercial deliveries are trailing behind a little.

The core legal hurdle for drone deliveries is the line-of-sight issue. We went into detail previously, but the basic concept is that if a pilot must be able to see the drone from end to end, it is probably more effective to just walk the product over. Overcoming that, a drone will need some sense and avoid techniques, if not technologies, safety measures to fly over people and potentially much more, based on the flight.

Thinking of commercial drone deliveries, the 55lb flight weight puts a definite ceiling on what can be delivered. The FAA does not really have restrictions on size, so there is still room to operate, but finding the right balance of drone weight to cargo capacity can be tough. Then, consider how many stops you plan to make in a flight, and economic viability comes into play.

A single driver can load up 500+ lbs of boxes into their car, drive all day, and stop for fuel when needed. Without waivers for the existing rules, a single pilot can haul a limited number of boxes a limited distance, and they only have a short amount of time to get there and back on a charge.

Actual product delivery is a problem

zipline-drone-blood-delivery via parachute

How do your Amazon packages arrive at your house now? A driver walks up, places the package on your deck, in your mailbox, under your stairs, maybe even tucks it into the garage. How would a drone deliver your package? Do you have a large, secure, flat driveway or yard? Does the drone have to land, or can it drop the package from height? Where will it land? Will your dog lunge after the drone?

The reason that many of the current medical package deliveries have been successful is that there is a clear, secured landing pad on both ends. That may be a hospital helipad or a cordoned off parking lot, either way, these have been highly coordinated events. A parachuted package falling from the sky over your house is not so graceful.

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In the end, we have a long way to go before we can expect our consumer products to be dropped off at our homes via drone. There are some serious players working on making it happen, so it may not take many calendar days to accomplish, but know that there are hundreds of hours of research and testing going into the tech to satisfy the safety side of deliveries. The tech to actually deliver products has been around for a long time, so we need only satisfy the FAA at this point.

Join us tomorrow for more from the FAA’s drone safety awareness week, we get to talk about education and STEM with drones.