Drone deliveries got a step closer to reality as the White House issued an order giving local governments more authority to conduct tests of the burgeoning new technology.
President Donald Trump on Oct. 25 is signing an executive order designed to speed the arrival of drones capable of flying over crowds and for longer distances. The administration says it wants to open new commercial uses for the aircraft and create jobs.
“In order to maintain American leadership in this emerging industry here at home, our country needs a regulatory framework that encourages innovation while insuring airspace safety,” Michael Kratsios, a deputy assistant to the president at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in a briefing with reporters.
Trump’s order, a response to calls from companies making and using drones, will allow local governments to apply to the Federal Aviation Administration for waivers allowing them to conduct tests of deliveries, drone air-traffic systems, long-range flights and other uses generally prohibited under current rules, Kratsios said. The tests will generate data that can be used by the FAA and lawmakers as they craft expanded regulations, he said.
The move is the latest attempt to jump start an industry in which technology has moved at a rapid clip — only to be held back by regulatory and safety concerns. The government adopted rules allowing routine commercial flights last year, but with rare exceptions it limited operations to short distances and ordered that they be kept away from people.
While U.S. companies have been among the industry’s leaders, some have complained that restrictive federal regulations have slowed their ability to move forward. Companies including Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Project Wing have at times had to test their drone-delivery systems in other countries.
In addition to deliveries, drones can be tested for such uses as rushing medical supplies to emergencies, performing inspections of infrastructure including pipelines and power grids, and filming news events by television networks.