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Automated drones to fly above US heads for the first time

written by Hannah Dowling | January 18, 2021

The New Zealand Aerospace Challenge has been launched. (New Zealand Aerospace Challenge website)The US Federal Aviation Administration has finalised provisions around the use of fully automated drones, giving appropriate permissions to the first US company to do so.

According to American Robotics, the first US company to be approved to utilise fully automated drones to fly “over people”, the first commercial use of said drones will be outside of major cities.

Instead, the company’s drones will be used to assist industrial and agricultural operators.

The current FAA provisions reportedly limit operations to areas of light air traffic, and allows drones to operate autonomously up to 400 feet.

The FAA said that data collected by American Robotics’ operations will provide them critical data for use in evaluating future “beyond visual line-of-sight”, or BVLOS, operations.

The decision marks a major milestone for future drone delivery service operators, such as Amazon, as it paves the way for such services to operate unmanned – a notorious goal of the giant US retailer.

One newly finalised rule by the FAA in relation to automated drones, under the “Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems over People”, will allow some autonomous drones the capability to fly at night.


Under the current FAA guidelines, due to come into full effect within 60 days, there are four categories of commercial drone that are permitted to fly above people.

Prior to the FAA’s landmark decision, commercial drone operations required the drone pilot to be within line of sight of the drone while in flight.

Further, drone operators required special, one-off waivers in order to fly overhead of people.

“Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition,” said American Robotics co-founder and CEO Reese Mozer.

“With these approvals, American Robotic is ushering in a new era of widespread automated drone operations.”

Automated drones to fly above US heads for the first time Comment

  • Sandy toes


    Already been done before by Australian UAV operators in the early 2000’s, including beyond visual line of sight. People and companies need to be careful about claiming firsts.

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