The Minnesota brewing company, Lakemaid, was excited in its development of a delivery drone capable of flying packs of frosty brews to thirsty ice fishers, so much so that they posted video of their project onto youtube. While the video did garner interest from beer lovers, it also attracted the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration, who were not so amused by Lakemaid’s creative use of drone technology.
Current laws state that drones cannot be flown above 400 feet, for commercial uses, or for profit. However, this laws may soon be subject to change – beer flights and Amazon have the FAA considering classifying all RC planes, even those only for kids and hobbyists, as drones.
These laws also mean the flight of beer is obviously out of the question, but there is hope for the future of air lifted alcohol. With other major companies like Amazon and Pizza hut also looking at drone delivery systems, there is an immense pressure on lawmakers to remake the current legislation. Those companies may not have to wait long; the FAA regulations are scheduled for an overhaul by the year 2015. Even so, those changes may not go into effect until as late as 2017, and there is no guarantee of increased freedoms in the use of unmanned drones for commercial purposes.
These new advances have also sparked conversations on reactions to this emerging technology. Even with human over watch in our current system of deliveries, it is not uncommon for packages to be delivered to wrong addresses or even stolen off of doorsteps; so what would keep modern burglars from lifting drone deliveries, or in worst case scenarios, shooting down drones for the spoils? Currently there seem to be few answers, the best among them being a minimum flying height of 400 feet in order to keep drones unnoticed or out of range of most antagonists. It has also been suggest that, as drones are phased in, they will first deliver to “safe drop zones” instead of directly to the consumer’s address.
Lakemaid’s new involvement in drones also highlights the possible importance of drone technology to small businesses. Before now, the only companies to consider similar systems were big name companies, grossing billions of dollars, and competing to stay at the cutting edge of their respective markets. But if a small town company such as Lakemaid can effectively use drones to deliver beer, it may open doors for similar businesses to follow suit. It is not impossible that by the year 2017 we will be able to order our favorite local Deli’s signature sandwich, a new pair of custom glasses, and a rented blu ray, and instead of driving from store to store, we would have the luxury of airlifted merchandise brought to our exact location.
Speculation may be fun, but if you want to add your voice to the thousands already supporting Lakemaid’s endeavors, there is now a way! Since the FAA shut down their drone project, they have raised a petition on Whitehouse.gov, “Force the FAA to issue an Airworthiness Certificate for Beer Drones (BUAVs)”, which has a goal of one hundred thousand votes before March. By supporting Lakemaid advocates hope to pave the way for small businesses to use the innovative UAV technology, helping them extend their potential market, grow their brand, and support advances in commercial technology.