The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this week approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights, giving a small company the green light to operate drones without direct supervision from human controllers or manned flight.
The FAA ruling states that drones will only operate in rural areas at heights below 400 feet, although it is still a watershed moment in the efforts of farmers, miners and others to lobby for increased commercial use of unmanned drones in their work.
The agency said in approval documents posted on its website that increased commercial use of automated drones could bring “efficiencies to many industries that power our economy, such as agriculture, mining, etc. , transportation and unsustainable manufacturing.
“In addition, the operations will reduce the environmental impact, as they will involve a small aircraft carrying no passengers or crew, rather than a manned aircraft of significantly larger size. In view of these considerations, the small [unmanned aircraft systems] The UAS operation the petitioner will conduct under this exemption is in the public interest, ”the FAA said.
The FAA had previously approved drones to inspect infrastructure such as railroads and pipelines. American Robotics Inc., based in Marlborough, Massachusetts, has received the new FAA approval.
The Scout drones managed by the company fly on predetermined flight schedules and have technology they can use to avoid birds and other aircraft. The drones weigh less than 20 pounds, according to the Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report on the FAA approval.
The FAA’s decision follows four years of testing in eight states and raises the prospect of broader testing for other industries.