As the FAA's Remote ID NPRM continues to collect public comments—there are 12,025 at the moment of writing this post—another recent NPRM from the FAA that proposes a rule for certifying drones for various types of operations, including delivery, has slid under the radar.
This newer NPRM was issued on Monday, February 3, and has only garnered 11 comments as of writing this post. And, at least on its surface, the lack of activity shouldn't be all that surprising.
While the proposed Remote ID rule runs 211 pages (over 90,000 words) and lays out a long, complex system for regulating remote ID, the proposed drone certification rule is only two pages (just under 2,000 words), providing a general groundwork for the FAA to make future rules to certify specific drones for specific types of operations, such as making deliveries. A POTENTIAL GAME CHANGER FOR THE DRONE INDUSTRY
Despite its small size, the drone certification NPRM could represent a big step forward for the drone industry.
Up until now, if a company wanted to make drone deliveries it had two paths it could take to get permission from the FAA:
- Secure Part 107 waivers for the specific operations required to make deliveries, such as flying Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), over people, at night, etc.
- Secure Part 135 certification and be recognized as an air carrier, which then allows the company to conduct the types of operations needed to make drone deliveries. (The FAA now says that this second option is "the only path for small drones to carry the property of another for compensation beyond visual line of sight"—i.e., to make drone deliveries.)
Currently, only two drone delivery companies have been given permission to conduct deliveries by obtaining Part 135 certification.
These companies are Wing, which holds a Single Pilot Part 135 certification, and UPS subsidiary Flight Forward, which holds the broader Standard Part 135 certification.