Look up into the sky in 2017 and you could see drone deliveries happening on a regular basis, says Dave Vos, the head of Google X’s Project Wing drone delivery program. "Moving people and stuff around the planet in an efficient way is where I want to get," Vos told an audience at an Aero Club aviation industry event in Washington, D.C., earlier this week.
Vos’s proclamation that drone deliveries could become a real thing in 2017 might seem like wishful thinking, but he says it's possible because the hurdles aren’t technical, they’re regulatory. Currently the Federal Aviation Administration requires companies to seek approval to fly a drone on a case-by-case basis. Companies cannot apply to fly an entire fleet, for example. FAA regulations also dictate that drones can’t fly at night and a drone operator can’t fly more than one drone at once.
Despite the current regulations, Vos is hopeful that the private sector and the government can work together to move things forward quickly. After all, he points out, it was only in October that the FAA teamed up with drone operators and other tech companies, including Google, to help create a registration system for drones. That system went live only two months later and over 181,000 drone owners have already registered.
Vos assured the Aero Club audience that people won't find delivery drones to be bothersome. He says Google is developing a technology that will ensure drones are operated so quietly while in flight that people below "won’t even notice" they are flying overhead if they don’t look up.
The FAA is expected to finalize the regulatory rules for flying commercial drones later this year.