New rules set by the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee could be the latest step to open the skies for commercial deliveries.
Based on new guidelines set by the committee late last year, drones will soon be able to fly over people at night under certain conditions, pilots will need to prove competency, and devices will all have to feature anti-collision lights.
Fort Collins, Colorado Mayor Wade Troxell, whose background lies in engineering, is a member of the committee made up of representatives with a wide range of expertise including tech, parcel delivery, and business leadership.
Though human innovation typically outpaces regulation, the great promise that drone technology poses cannot come second to privacy and safety, Troxell told Cheddar.
Companies like Amazon, Walmart, and UPS already are testing ways to ship goods by air this way, from fast food to medical devices, along with other businesses.
“Right now, I think those that are showing high value and that are being used for their business practices are, for example, utilities, and when inspecting the transmission lines over long distances, it’s much safer than the current practices,” he said.
The use of drones also has shown to be fruitful in rail travel with train operators using the technology to assess portions of track laying ahead of them.
So far, the process of establishing a clear set of guidelines for drone operators has been slow, but Troxell said steps are being taken. When it comes to accountability, he explained that the agency is working to have all drones, commercial and personal, operate on remote ID, similar to the tail number on an airplane. If a drone is out of control or poses a threat, the "digital license plate" can then help law enforcement track down its command center.
"It's important that there's some level of control, particularly at the local level, such that we can help manage the safe ways of travel," he said.