Uber has been looking to fill an executive position at UberExpress, the drone delivery operation within its UberEats food delivery unit, to help get the company’s drones up and running next year, The Wall Street Journal recently reported.
The need for an executive makes sense since Uber is currently a partner with the City of San Diego, which is one of 10 localities that are participating in a federal pilot program to integrate drones into local airspace. Furthermore, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 told the FAA to update the existing regulations, originally designed for manned aircraft, to address under 55-pound drone delivery. Regardless of these two beneficial events, there are at least two major hurdles that UberExpress will face to establish a commercial food drone delivery business: the law and the economics.
Uber is going to face issues with the federal government as well as the states that the commercial drone delivery services will be offered in. On top of that, some counties, cities, and towns have created laws that could affect the operations as well. For one given flight, you could have federal, state, county, and city laws applying to the flight, some which could even be contradicting each other!
From a federal government standpoint, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is going to be the biggest problem. (Other federal agencies will affect operations, such as Department of Transportation, Federal Communications Commission, etc.) The FAA has two ways of currently allowing companies to get airborne legally: (1) Part 107 and (2) through the rest of the Federal Aviation Regulations while getting special regulatory approvals to operate under alternative restrictions. Yes, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 is trying to make things easier, but the rule-making process takes time (around 2.5 years from notice of proposed rule-making to final rule taking effect).
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