US aviation regulators have approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights, allowing a Massachusetts-based company to operate drones without manual piloting or direct observation by human controllers or observers.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s decision has limited the operation of automated drones in rural areas and altitudes below 400 feet, but is an important step forward in the expansion of commercial applications of drones for farmers, utilities, mining companies and other customers.
This represents another step in the FAA’s broader effort to authorize extensive flights by moving away from case-by-case exemptions for specific vehicles performing specific tasks.
In approval documents posted on a government website on Thursday, the FAA said that once such automatic drone operations are carried out on a wide scale, they mean “in agriculture, mining, transportation and the industries that fuel our economy May have the capacity of many “and some manufacturing segments.
The FAA previously allowed drones to inspect rail tracks, pipelines, and some industrial sites that were beyond sight of pilots or spotters, unless such individuals were located relatively close.