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February 4, 2020 9:45 AM, EST

FAA to Begin Certification Process for Civilian, Delivery Drones

Alphabet's Project Wing conducts example flights of their drone delivery system in Virginia in August 2018.Alphabet's Project Wing conducts example flights of their drone delivery system in Virginia in August 2018. (Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg News)

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Government regulators plan to review drone designs in the same way they review other aircraft, a major step toward allowing routine drone deliveries and other flights over congested cities.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Feb. 3 announced it’s seeking comment from the public and the drone industry on what criteria should be used for determining whether these novel new devices are safe.

The devices “affected by this policy will include those used for package delivery,” the FAA said in a document published in the Federal Register. Companies such as Amazon.com, Alphabet Inc.’s Wing unit and United Parcel Service Inc. are all participating in FAA-sanctioned tests of how to make deliveries of consumer goods and medical supplies by drone.

RoadSigns: A Transport Topics podcast

In part one of a two-part exploration of autonomous technology today, our latest RoadSigns podcast revisits conversations with CEOs Alex Rodrigues of Embark and Cetin Mericli of Locomation. Hear them explain what testing automated trucks and developing platooning technology has taught them about the road ahead — and get new perspective with host commentary. Listen to a snippet from Rodrigues above, and to hear the full episode, go to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

Current regulations allow hobbyists and commercial drone operators to fly, but with strict limits designed to protect people, property and other aircraft. Those restrictions are partly the result of the lack of any regulations governing how drones are designed and built.

The law allows FAA to grant “special” design approvals even when its regulations don’t cover a type of aircraft, the agency said.

Having criteria for drone designs will help the FAA integrate drones into wider use, it said in the announcement. The agency will accept comments for 30 days.

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