On June 21, the FAA finalized the rules for commercial UAVs or drones. Until now, commercial use of this technology was a bit of a gray area.
When the rules become effective in August, they will allow the use of UAVs weighing up to 55 pounds, traveling as fast as 100 mph for non-hobbyist operations, and flying at an altitude no higher than 400 feet. Operators will have to be in the line of sight for all devices, and use them only during daylight hours. Drones can operate without air traffic control permission when in an uncontrolled airspace (Class G), but when in controlled airspace (Classes B, C, D, and E) around commercial airports, drones will need ATC permission. In short, our logistics industry is much closer to prototyping drone solutions outside of the gray – ideally in the clear.
The Future of Drones in Logistics
We are excited about the FAA's recent statement—as it allows the ideas of vendors, and our prototyping in the Innovation Lab, to come to fruition. We believe that in the not-too-distant future drone technology will modernize storage spaces and one day become a seamless part of our future supply chain processes.
One example of our forward thinking—recently, we were involved in a discussion regarding the design, construction, and layout of a new warehouse. Towards the end of the meeting we brought up the idea of drones operating both inside and outside the warehouse and what sorts of accommodations we could make to ensure their operation was smooth and uninterrupted. While the architect thought we were crazy, we were able to successfully convince him that in 5 years the use of drones in both logistics and manufacturing were inevitable.
While planning for their use today is a bit of a stretch, it’s certainly cheaper in the long run to design buildings around their use today. The customer agreed these concerns were valid and we spent another hour discussing potential obstacles, building heights, and even entertained the cost of a retractable cover to allow drones to fly in and out through the roof!
Another crucial piece of the FAA's statement is the estimate that these rulings "could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years." This is a welcome spur of growth for those of us who optimize the supply chains and manage logistics for companies all across the country.
To Sum It All Up
While we still do not advise our customers to invest in drone applications at this time, the innovation team at Kenco is happy to see such great strides in the FAA's acceptance and regulation of drone use in commercial spaces. Further clarity is also needed from organizations like OSHA and insurance carriers—which will be covered in future blog postings.