Unmanned Drones—Coming Soon to a Warehouse Near You?

In a move that could find more flying drones entering the airspace above the nation’s warehouses and yards, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small, unmanned aircraft systems. This opens the pathways towards fully integrating drones into the nation’s airspace—a move that could also help companies harness new innovations safely, spur job growth, advance critical scientific research, and even save lives.

FAA Spokesperson Les Dorr says the rules spell out what drone operators need to do in order to legally operate the small, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). One point to keep in mind, he says, is that drones still can’t be operated directly over people unless the company obtains a waiver to do so. “Now that the rules are in effect,” Dorr says, “companies have a reference point to look at and see what those rules cover and determine how the regulations impact the way they want to use the unmanned aircraft in the course of business.”

Advancing Technology, One Drone at a Time

According to industry estimates, the new FAA rule could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. In effect since August 29, the new rule offers safety regulations for unmanned aircraft drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations. A few of the key points covered in the FAA’s ruling include:

  • Designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground, the regulations require pilots to keep an unmanned aircraft within visual line of sight.
  • Operations are allowed during daylight and during twilight if the drone has anti-collision lights.
  • The new regulations also address height and speed restrictions and other operational limits, such as prohibiting flights over unprotected people on the ground that aren’t directly participating in the UAS operation.

While the new laws don’t specifically address deliveries, they will help spark more research and innovation on drone delivery, according to CNBC’s FAA’s new drone laws go into effect Monday, allowing US companies to innovate.  A number of businesses, including Amazon, have announced plans for drone deliveries, but many have outsourced delivery operations to other countries due to a lack of proper regulation in their home markets. For example, Nevada-based startup Flirtey recently announced a partnership with Domino’s Pizza in New Zealand on what the companies called “the world’s first commercial pizza-by-drone delivery model,” CNBC reports. Boeing, meanwhile, has conducted drone operations in Australia, which was one of the first countries to regulate UAVs.

Drones in the Yard?

In the logistics arena, Yard Management Systems provider PINC has been experimenting with drones for the last year or two. According to the company’s website, PINC Air is the world’s first FAA approved autonomous drone for the supply chain and logistics industry, that redefines how inventory is tracked. “By moving the tracking process into the air, PINC Air is able to execute automatic inventory checks, increase inventory accuracy, and identify inventory in hard to reach locations.”

Expect to see more drones making their way into the logistics space as companies become more comfortable with the idea of not only capturing visual images from unmanned aircraft, but also possibly moving products (outside of just pizza) via air. Here at Odyssey we’ll be keeping an eye on the developments and helping you better understand both the opportunities and impacts associated with drones.

If you have any questions, please reach out to your Odyssey representative.