As we have amply covered on this website, the FAA has a propensity to restrict drone use so much that you can barely do anything anymore that involves the use of drones. For those who are only flying their drones as a hobby, the restrictions might be fewer, but the same can’t be said for companies who want to use their drones for commercial purposes.
Still, it seems that companies like Google have found a way around this based on recent information. They are currently testing out delivery programs via drone in US airspace with the cooperation of NASA.
From what has been revealed so far, it would seem that the drone can reach 100 mph and weights 25 kg or less. The program itself is called Project Wing and has been in the works for at least a year.
At the moment, there is a blanket ban on all commercial use for drones and getting an exemption from the FAA requires a lot of jumping through hoops. Through the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) by NASA though, it would seem that Google has managed to skirt these requirements.
Usually reserved for government agencies, a COA will allow an organization to use Unmanned Aerial Systems for experiments for as long as they keep to certain safety standards. A COA also involves plenty of restrictions from NASA and the FAA. Finally, unlike 333 exemptions, COAs are not usually subject to being public.
Diana Cooper, head of the unmanned aerial systems and robotics practice group at Canadian law firm LaBarge Weinstein said, “I don’t think this kind of public-private cooperation is happening with high regularity. But there aren’t too many stats out there.”
Neither NASA nor Google deigned to confirm or deny these reports, though the Guardian did manage to acquire a Space Agreement saying, “Nasa and Google will conduct joint field tests of UASs … where Nasa may issue certificates of approvals to operate.”
For the next trials, the focus will be to determine if low-flyin drones will be able to make use of cellphone signals for automatic air traffic control purposes. Supposedly, Google intends to test and demonstrate on Merced, California on a privately owned land. 4G and LTE radio frequencies will be used for the experiment which practically all major carriers use. This will then give unprecedented control over drones if it is successful.