Major Legislative Victory in Florida Could Set a Precedent for Drone Package Delivery Operations Nationwide

A bipartisan bill that would allow remote package delivery drones to fly more freely in Florida has just passed both houses of the state legislature.  Sponsored by Wyman Duggan and Spencer Roach in the Florida House and by Jay Collins and Jim Boyd in the Florida Senate, SB 1068 removes current state and local government restrictions on the construction of drone ports, which will allow drone providers like Drone Up, which has partnered with Walmart in six US states, to greatly extend the number and reach of their drone package deliveries to serve more Walmart customers faster and more efficiently.

The bill now goes to the desk of Florida governor Ron Desantis, a huge supporter of the drone industry, who is expected to sign it into law later this month.

The effect of the new bill – the first of its kind in the nation – is likely to be far-reaching.   Under current FAA-approved flight rules, drone package deliveries by Walmart and Drone-Up in Florida have been limited to customers living within a one-mile radius of a Walmart store outlet. The outlet also serves as the drone’s exclusive loading station and launch site.  Each drone flies to its appointed destination and then returns back to its home base. Currently, just five Walmart store outlets – mostly in low population density towns – participate in the company’s aerial package delivery program

Drone Up does have three drone “hubs” in place to coordinate its existing flights but with drone ports, the company can vastly expand its current area of operations, bill supporters say.  The company can schedule and coordinate package deliveries from different Walmart store outlets concurrently, using each port as a regional command and control center, a central battery recharging and maintenance stations and as an independent launch site.  With additional FAA approval, the ports could keep the company’s entire drone fleet airborne for an extended period and over longer distances, increasing the efficiency and “scalability” of the entire operation.

Officials at Walmart and Drone-Up were jubilant at the news of the Florida bill’s passage. “DroneUp thanks Senators Collins and Boyd for spearheading the efforts of the Florida Senate to pass legislation that will enable Walmart to provide drone delivery services to an expanding number of Florida citizens,” said Drone Up COO Anthony Vittone.

Senator Collins also praised both chambers of the state legislature for moving so swiftly on the bill.  “The State of Florida recognizes the immense benefits drone deliveries will bring to the citizens of this great state. Retailers and companies across the state are already implementing this game-changing technology, and drones will only play an increasing role in achieving customer satisfaction and providing last-mile delivery solutions,” he said.

Stakeholders involved in the new legislation note that the drone ports won’t only facilitate retail package deliveries but will enhance all drone missions that require additional infrastructure support.  “Whether it’s faster and more convenient delivery of goods or assisting with disaster relief efforts, the benefits of [the ports] will reach far and wide,”  Vittone noted.

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