Ride sharing company Uber, has recently posted an opening for an executive position under their UberExpress umbrella. UberExpress, under the UberEats food delivery service plans to use commercial drones to deliver food by 2021. But before Uber can successfully implement drones as part of their UberEats service, it will need to address several issues, including the economics and the current drone laws established by the FAA. In particular, the 2018 Reauthorization Act that addresses statutes and limitations regarding drone deliveries.
The FAA states that in order to fly commercially, companies and individuals will need to follow the Part 107 (The FAA’s license), which says that drones may not be flown over people without a waiver and the pilot must maintain sight of the drone at all times. The “over people” waiver has a 99% rejection rate, and the fact that a Part 107 waiver is needed for beyond line of sight adds to the dilemmas Uber is facing.
There are a few other issues with navigation and complying with all the different local regulations across the county. UberExpress will then have to find which geographical locations are best suited for the delivery service via drones. Then, there’s the economic standpoint. Using drones to deliver food presents two possible issues – the flight safety aspect and the operational costs and profitability. While the FAA is mainly focused on safety more than business. While it’s true that drones provide many benefits and have the capability of improving lives for people, there are still risks.
The Part 107 only allows drones to be flown within the pilot’s line of sight at all times. Uber will need more pilots and more drones to cover a particular geographical area, which can mean more maintenance and overhead costs. One possible plan would be for Uber to get an exception to the Part 107. Drone delivery is certainly one step closer to becoming a reality.