UPS, Amazon delivery drones a step closer to reality with new US rules

The government says drones will need to address new safety and security concerns.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read

That delivery drone is a step closer to reality.


Someday soon, you may not be waiting for packages delivered by a truck -- instead, they'll come overhead, via drone. But they might look a little different from what you've seen before. The Federal Aviation Administration announced new rules Monday for what it calls "unmanned aircraft" that weigh more than 0.55 pound (or 0.25 kilogram) to operate around people. 

Among the new rules, the FAA said drones will need to broadcast their identification through a new system called Remote ID, which will help the government track both the drones and their base "control" stations. Those operating at night will also need to have anti-collision lights, and drones must have no "exposed rotating parts" (like the flight blades) that could cut human skin. And people who manage the drones will need to have a drone pilot's license with them whenever operating the aircraft.

"The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns," said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, in a statement. "They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages."

The rules announced Monday are the latest in a series of steps to solidify regulations around drone deliveries and flights around the US. Both Amazon and UPS have been testing drone deliveries, indicating the technology isn't far off.

"The framework is a critical step in allowing more complex UAS operations, with a focus on safety and security," UPS said in a statement, referring to unmanned aircraft systems. The company added that the FAA's moves "will advance the integration of drones into the National Airspace System."

Various parts of the US government have expressed concern about how drones could be misused, a concern heightened by a series of incidents in 2018 in which drones caused Gatwick Airport in London to shut down.

It'll be more than two years before the new rules go into effect, but civilian drones offered for sale in the US must be equipped with ID broadcast technology in 18 months, according to the FAA release. Existing drones will also need to be retrofitted with a beacon system, and all drones will need to comply with these rules in the next couple years.

Amazon didn't responded to requests for comment.

See also: Best drones for 2020