US Senate bill would give FAA 2 years to create rules for delivery drones

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. In an amendment to the bill filed by Senators Heller and Cantwell, the Senate committee instructs the FAA to create rules for delivery drones within the next two years.

It’s worth noting that the bill is still working its way through the Senate and should hit the floor for a final vote next month.

While the original version of the reauthorization bill left much to be desired for commercial drone operators, this amendment asks the FAA to create a set of rules that would allow Amazon, Google and others to use drones for delivery purposes.

“Not later than 2 years after the data of enactment of this section, the Secretary of Transportation shall issue a final rule authorizing the carriage of property by operators of small unmanned aircraft systems for compensation or hire within the United States,” the amendment reads.

Under these rules, the FAA would have to establish a certificate for drone operators who want to use delivery drones, including those who want to operate commercial — and highly automated — fleets. The amendment also calls for this certificate to be performance-based and safety-focused.

For the most part, this is what Amazon, Google and others that want to get into the drone delivery game have been requesting. Amazon’s proposal, for example, would create different tiers of drones based on their on-board safety features. Only those that can fly in a fully autonomous mode would be allowed for delivery operations, for example.