Google announced last week that they have been doing tests of delivery drones, but this caught many in the tech world off guard. The reason is that Google has been doing all of its aerial tests outside the US.
The reason? FAA has not come up with procedures for Google and other tech innovators to test drone technology. Google, which has a new guest post warning in its guidelines, knows that waiting for FAA to get around to this is a loser, so Google is taking its work overseas for the time being.
FAA current rules state that commercial operators may not fly unmanned drones unless they have permission from the FAA. This means that Amazon and Google (which made 890 improvements in 2013) cannot experiment with drones in the air without getting FAA approval. FDA argues that either company can take their drones to a government test site, but neither company is interested in that.
FAA also states that they are delaying this due to safety concerns, but many experts say this is not a good argument. These firms have billions of dollars in resources, and they can buy plenty of land to test drones far from populated areas. That is what Google is doing in Australia, as they are testing deliveries in rural areas there.
Amazon also asked FAA for permission to do this; they asked for a waiver so they could test drones on private property. Amazon waited, and FAA did nothing. Amazon told the government that it preferred to keep jobs in the US but if FAA would not make a decision, the online commerce giant said it too would go overseas to test.
Now, given Google’s announcement, it seems clear that Amazon would be better served to move testing operations overseas, at least until FAA gets it in gear. No good company should wait to innovate until a bureaucrat decides to approve the project. It’s pretty sad that the US may lose some drone-related jobs, but for now, it appears these innovate companies have little choice.