In a positive announcement for the U.S drone industry the FAA has announced tests of drones in three key use cases, in moves that pave the way for drone delivery services. The industry has been hampered relative to international peers due to clumsy and delayed regulation by the FAA.
That looks set to change as the agency will now test drone use in urban areas and operating them outside the pilot’s line-of-sight.
FAA administrator Michael P. Huerta announced the Pathfinder Program on Wednesday a new partnership with three American companies to explore key types of unmanned operations related to widespread commercial use.
Drone manufacturer PrecisionHawk will be surveying crops using unmanned aircraft flying outside of the pilot’s direct visual range, while Warren Buffett's BNSF Railroad will test drones to inspect their rail infrastructure in similar beyond visual range operations.
CNN, the cable news operator, has been approved to test drones for news collection over urban areas.
The FAA also released a smartphone app, B4UFLY, to determine whether there are any FAA flight restrictions or requirements at the location where people want to fly their drones.
The app is available to about 1000 private beta testers and will be available on iOS first with an Android version to follow.