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Are Amazon’s drones airworthy? You have a month to tell the FAA

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A bunch of big-time players in the drone industry, including Amazon, just received airworthiness criteria for certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. Now, you have about a month to weigh in with your own public comments on whether or not some big-time drones are airworthy.

The FAA in November published airworthiness criteria for the proposed certification of 10 different drones as special class aircraft, in what the FAA is calling ‘a crucial step to enabling more complex drone operations beyond what is allowed under the small unmanned aircraft rule (Part 107)’.

If drones have a certification that makes it airworthy, it would be one step closer to legally being able to conduct complex (and much-anticipated) operations such as flights over people or drone package delivery.

Each of the 10 drone range from five to 89 pounds, with many types of vehicle designs such as fixed wing or rotorcraft — though are all electric powered.

Today’s published airworthiness criteria is based on existing airworthiness standards applicable to other categories of aircraft. The goal with the new criteria? To establish a defined path to type certification for specific drones.

“Type certification will help increase both public and regulatory confidence in drone technology as operations become more advanced,” said Dr. Michael C. Romanowski, director of Aircraft Certification Service Policy and Innovation, in a prepared statement.

The entire list of companies that now have airworthiness criteria notices published in the Federal Register are:

So what’s next for these comings? None actually have airworthiness certificates for those aircrafts, but that could change. The FAA is now requesting public comment, which means you can weigh in on the FAA’s final determination of whether a specific drone meets FAA safety requirements.

Public comments close on Dec. 21, 2020.

Many of the companies on the list, including Flirtey, Amazon, Matternet and Zipline to name a few, are heavily invested in the drone delivery use case.  So far, drone delivery has been slow to takeoff in the U.S, largely due to regulations around flying over people or outside the operator’s line of sight. Systems like Remote ID (putting electronic license plates on drones) or UTM (air traffic control for drones) introduce new hurdles, but also opportunities to create procedures that get drones off the ground. But with that progress — as well as defining airworthiness criteria for drones, you might actually be able to get your contactless package deliveries in the coming years.


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