FAA cans Beer Delivery by UAS; the future brews with greater issues

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ARTICLE: FAA Grounds Flying Beer Drone

Video: http://mashable.com/2014/02/01/beer-drone/

UAS is a world of high technology and grand visions (witness Jeff Bezo’s announcement ). Not a captain of industry, but every bit the innovator Jack Supple, president of Lakemaid Beer, showed how a UAS delivery could work on a micro basis (micro brewer delivery?) by using the simple UAV to fly his beer to ice fishermen on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake.

By this action against this beer company, the FAA enforced its standard interpretation of statutory prohibition on commercial flights without operational and economic authorities. The delivery of the beer, even if there was no separate charge for the “aviation”, constitutes for “compensation or hire”.

Although this incident is humorous, the FAA faces a number of very difficult regulatory issues. As the nascent UAS industry pushes the entrepreneurial envelope, the issues will explode in a number of dimensions—what constitutes compensation and hire, how to detect such small scale operations, what privacy protections can/should be imposed, how the FAA can separate the UAS operations from the National Airspace and beyond.

Having popped Lakemaid’s UAS top, the FAA will face more complex and contentious issues in the near and long term.

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