This week, drone delivery in the US took another step forward, with a Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approved drone making its first US government-sanctioned delivery of medical supplies to a rural health clinic.
The 10lbs of medical supplies were delivered over three three minute flights from Lonesome Pine Airport,Virginia, to a clinic at the Wise County Fairgrounds in a total of 24 medical packages. The drone used was manufactured by Australian firm Flirtey, and the delivery demo was done in partnership with NASA.
The demo was supposed to showcase how useful drones can be to deliver much needed equipment to remote areas hard to access with ground vehicles. And while three minute flights may not seem very far in terms of range, it’s a start, and one to build on.
US Regulators have tended to lag behind their European counterparts when pushing forward enabling drone delivery legislation, and the FAA seems overly cautious on many aspects of drone flight. The sheer number of personal drones, however, has made any notion of the FAA being able to enforce current limitations on drones, almost entirely impossible.
Several US companies, including Amazon, have long lobbied congress to move forward more quickly when it comes to providing a workable legal framework for commercial drone flight. Indeed, the firm has said it would like to get its PrimeAir delivery service off the ground within the next year, a deadline that seems slightly far-fetched under the current regulatory climate.
This first FAA sanctioned medical delivery, however, offers some hope.
“Proving that unmanned aircraft can deliver lifesaving medicines is an important step toward a future where unmanned aircraft make routine autonomous deliveries of your everyday purchases,” said Flirtey chief executive Matt Sweeny in a statement.