Earlier this winter, a Minnesota beer brewery, Lakemaid Beer, thought up an innovative delivery method: why not use drones to fly ice cold beer out to fishermen working on remote, frozen lakes? Lakemaid's drone delivery service went live this past weekend, and the drones successfully delivered their first order to The Bait & Tackle, a fishing outpost near Lake Mille Lacs. As the Daily Atheneum reports, however, the celebrations were short-lived. Lakemaid's delivery service was promptly shut down but the Federal Aviation Administration.
It's not that the FAA has specific rules banning drone delivery. But the agency does have very stringent laws surrounding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. The online mag Mod Vive explains:
For instance, drones are prohibited from flying over populated areas and are not permitted to fly over an elevation of 400 feet. These devices must weigh less than 55 pounds and may not be used for commercial purposes, which leaves the use of these vehicles for recreational purposes only.
Lakemade clearly was in violation of these restrictions and has since been served with a cease and desist order from the FAA citing violations of these restrictions. For the time being, this one delivery may end up being the one and only beer delivery by drone.
The Associated Press adds that the only commercial venture to be granted FAA permission to use drones is an oil company, "and it took an act of Congress to win that concession." But, the AP says, the FAA is looking at loosening those stringent rules:
FAA officials say rules to address the special safety challenges associated with unmanned aircraft need to be in place before they can share the sky with manned aircraft. The agency has worked on those regulations for the past decade and is still months and possibly years away from issuing final rules for small drones, which are defined as those weighing less than 55 pounds. Rules for larger drones are even further off.
The FAA says it will review drone use possibly by 2015, but that using the machines for deliveries will likely require special training and licensing. In the meantime, commercial drone venture might continue to try their luck at sneaking by the regulations, because, the AP points out, "unless FAA officials receive a complaint or chance upon a news story that mentions drone flights, they have little ability to find out about violations."
Here, you can see a video of the brief but successful Lakemaid drone beer delivery service: