More U.S. drone use coming, but no package delivery yet

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 25, 2014 7:24 PM

By Alwyn Scott

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Agriculture, mining and numerous other industries are likely to be cleared to fly drones now that U.S. regulators have allowed remote-piloted planes to shoot television and movie scenes, according to the key lawyer in the regulatory action.

But drones will not be carrying packages to doorsteps anytime soon because the technology to land safely is not well-developed, attorney Jonathan Hill, who filed the drone use requests that regulators approved on Thursday, told Reuters.

"If Amazon is going to land a UAS in your backyard, how does it know a child isn't out there when it's landing?" Hill said, referring to unmanned aerial systems.

Amazon.com Inc announced plans last year to use drones to make home deliveries. Google Inc has said it is developing drones capable of flying on their own and delivering anything from candy to medicine.

The Federal Aviation Administration granted exemptions on Thursday allowing six television and movie companies to use so-called small unmanned aerial systems for filming on closed sets.

The exemptions are the first commercial uses permitted in the continental United States, and are allowed for only those six companies, said Hill, Of counsel at Washington, D.C., law firm Cooley LLP.

A seventh filmmaker request is pending and is likely to approved soon, he said.

The approvals signaled that the FAA is open to granting exemptions, and a number of them are pending and could be approved by the year-end, Hill said.

The proposed uses include surveying farm land and pipelines, mining, forestry and observing flare stacks on oil refineries, he added.

One pending request with the FAA is for Trimble Navigation Ltd to use drones for GPS-based surveying.

While the go-ahead for film making appears to open the door, Hill cautioned that other approvals will need to consider flights outside a movie set where conditions can be secured.

"Others want to operate in a more open environment and we don't know how the FAA is going to react to that," he added.

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott. Editing by Andre Grenon)