Amazon concerned about leaving drone regulations to individual states

Dive Brief:

  • Amazon is concerned that allowing individual U.S. states to create their own drone delivery regulations could lead to a patchwork of widely varying regulatory environments that would greatly inhibit drone delivery operators, according to Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global innovation policy and communications.
  • “Here in the U.S., we’ve seen a proliferation of state bills that could affect the ability of entrepreneurs or larger enterprises to conduct business across state borders,” Misener said at CES 2017 last week, according to GeekWire. “And that makes no sense at all. The [Federal Aviation Administration] has been in charge of the airspace for safety. … For states to step in at this point would be a real problem.”
  • State legislators in Amazon's native Washington reportedly are faced with a proposed bill that could limit or ban unauthorized drone flights over private property.

Dive Insight:

The process of crafting drone regulations, and the progress (or mostly lack thereof) in moving forward with that process, has been a thorn in Amazon's side for quite a while. It was not happy that the FAA took so long developing its first drone regulations, and as it became clear the FAA would take even longer with specific drone delivery rules, Amazon went off to the U.K. to advance its drone delivery work.

More recently, things have been going pretty well on the drone delivery front for Amazon. It completed its first successful drone delivery, and has been keeping the U.S. Patent Office busy as it pushes to lock up patents around drone delivery innovations.

Why is Amazon so concerned about what an individual state might do to develop its own drone delivery rules? Because while many retailers are looking into drone delivery, Amazon as a sector giant has more to win or lose than most. It likely considers drone delivery to be a nationwide and international aspect of its operations, and all recent indications are that its is doubling down on drone delivery rather than pulling back amid an unfavorable regulatory environment in the U.S. Amazon will try to do everything it can to keep that environment from becoming even more complicated.

Aside from Amazon's concerns on the state level, there has been some recent evidence that the FAA is trying to get a better grip on the drone market at a national level. It's now testing how to detect unauthorized drone operating near airports and other sensitive areas. Also, the FAA's second annual drone symposium is scheduled for March. The agency has said more than 670,000 drone operators have signed up with its federal registry, including 37,000 in the last two weeks of December, according to GeekWire. Also, more than 30,000 people have applied to become certified drone pilots since the first round of FAA drone rules went into effect last summer.

The drone sector is emerging from its cracked egg, whether or not regulators at all levels are ready for it or not. Amazon is trying to make sure it can gain leverage in a rapidly escalating environment, while at the same time trying to ensure that regulations don't get in its way. Whatever happens in the coming months and years with the drone market and the rules that govern it, it seems more likely than not to be messy.

Filed Under: Technology Logistics
Top image credit: