Transportation chief defends drone rules

Transportation chief defends drone rules
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Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE is defending the federal government's proposed commercial drone rules from critics who argue the regulations will make it impossible to use the technology for online deliveries.  

Companies like Amazon have complained that the FAA's drone rules would prohibit automated deliveries because it would require the devices to be kept in sight of their operators.   

Foxx said Friday that Amazon and other companies will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed drone rules before they are finalized. 

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"We have a multi-tiered approach to the integration of unmanned aircraft systems," he said after an event at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station. 

"We believe that the steps we're taking are getting us to a more complete system," Foxx continued. "I actually would be happy to have our team engage with not only Amazon, but other users who may feel like there's more that should be done and in fact our rule making process allows for public comment.

"We're happy to listen and talk to others who think we should be doing more," he added. 

Companies like Amazon had been pressuring the FAA to approve expanded use of non-military drones for years by teasing the possibility of fast door-to-door deliveries.

The FAA proposed rules last weekend that would allow non-military drones under 55 pounds to be flown in the U.S., but only in the daytime and within the direct vision of operators. 

Amazon Vice President of Global Public Policy Paul Misener said the proposed rules do not go far enough to allow the company to make the kind of deliveries that were touted as being possible in its “Prime Air” service. 

“The FAA’s proposed rules for small UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] could take one or two years to be adopted and, based on the proposal, even then those rules wouldn’t allow Prime Air to operate in the United States,” Misener said in a statement provided to The Hill earlier this week. 

The FAA’s rules define small drones as devices that weigh less than 55 pounds and require them to be operated at heights less than 500 feet and speeds less than 100 miles per hour.

The regulations also call for drone flights to be conducted only by U.S. residents older than 17. Drone operators are also prohibited under the FAA proposal from conducting flights that take the devices out of their line of vision, which is a big blow to Amazon and other companies that have touted the possibility of using the technology to deliver consumer goods.

Misener said this week that Amazon would continue to work to implement its drone delivery service in other countries if rules that would prohibit its use in the U.S. are implemented. 

“The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers,” he said. “We are committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need.”