Experimentation in deploying drones for emergency service use could be curtailed by government regulations. A report in Fortune explains how government regulations are impeding the development of drone service for emergency use.
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Recently a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University successfully transported blood samples across the Arizona desert sky via an unmanned aerial aircraft. They partnered with a company called Latitude, which builds unmanned aircrafts, to carry out the test flight and demonstrate the promise of drones for the delivery of medical care and supplies to those in rural communities or during emergency situations.
After a three-hour flight on one of Latitude’s HQ-40 drones, which had been custom-built with a temperature-controlled container, blood samples arrived at a hospital and laboratory tests confirmed that they were unaffected by the flight. The Hopkins team believes that the successful test is a sign that medical care could soon include the autonomous delivery of emergency vaccines, drugs, and diagnostic test kits, especially to rural communities.
But for this technology to one day benefit Americans, policymakers will need to develop drone regulations that provide innovators with certainty about how drones can be deployed.
Currently, though, federal regulations are in the way. Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which maintains exclusive authority to regulate U.S. airspace, released new guidelines for the non-recreational use of drones. The guidelines prohibit flights after daylight, establish height and speed restrictions, and mandate that in-flight drones remain within the visual line of sight of their remote pilots. The FAA has also indicated that certain legal issues will have to be left under the purview of state and local governments, creating a patchwork of confusing laws for drone developers, manufacturers, and operators to follow.