Should the FAA Have Allowed Amazon's Drones?

Don't expect to receive packages by drone anytime soon.

A small surveillance drone flies during the annual military exercises held for the media at the Bergen military training grounds on Oct. 2, 2013 near Munster, Germany.

Monday's FAA memo reminds innovators that commercial drone flights have been considered illegal since 2007.

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The Federal Aviation Administration has announced that online retailer Amazon's plan to deliver packages by drone is illegal. The decision comes in a 17-page clarifying memo on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles that the FAA released Monday. While the document does not mention Amazon by name, it does say that "delivering of packages to people for a fee" is a forbidden commercial activity for a drone.

The announcement is part of a long-standing race between legislators and innovators to define how aircraft can take to the skies. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made headlines last December when he announced the Amazon Prime Air program during an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes."

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The use of commercial drones has been illegal ever since 2007, but that has not stopped entrepreneurs, scientists, artists and journalists from experimenting. Lawyer Brendan Schulman said that he sees the new FAA memo as an attempt to reassert authority.

In the memo, the FAA claims control over the national airspace. "We conclude that Congress intended for the FAA to be able to rely on a range of our existing regulations to protect users of the airspace and people and property on the ground," the memo states. Congress has imposed mandates asking for the FAA to help regulate crowded skies, and has also asked the FAA that commercial drone use be integrated by Sept. 2015.

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Under the current rules, only amateurs and those with specific permission may fly drones. Oil giant BP is the only company with permission to fly drones over American land, having received the go-ahead to use drones for oil field mapping in Alaska.

The FAA memo comes on the tail of a report by the Washington Post on dangerous incidents involving small drone flights. "The close calls," the Post's Craig Whitlock writes, "were the latest in a rash of dangerous encounters between civilian airplanes and drones flown in contravention of FAA rules intended to safeguard U.S. airspace."

So what do you think? Should the FAA have allowed Amazon's drones? Vote and comment below. 

Should the FAA Have Allowed Amazon's Drones?

Should the FAA Have Allowed Amazon's Drones?

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