Drone News Roundup: March 27th 2015

Every week, we get a news roundup from our research team on a couple of topics as a quick way to make sure we are not missing anything in the news. We thought you might find it useful so we’ve decided to share it. This week: Parcel Delivery and Precision Agriculture.

Parcel Delivery Drones News Roundup

There was a small news storm in the Parcel delivery drones sector in the last week of March. Reason: the giant US online retailer Amazon received an approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to test a parcel delivery drone model, but as it turned out, the approval was dead on arrival. By the time the approval came, Amazon had already designed more advanced drones and began testing them outside the US, making the approval obsolete.  Amazon took the opportunity to in effect accuse the FAA of sleeping on the job.

The ensuing furor swiftly turned into the latest talking point on how the US is being left behind by other countries in embracing drone technology. Among the major news websites that carried the story were the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the drone industry news portal, the Verge.

Less widely reported was the news that the FAA granted a license to Phoenix Air – the air charter company that famously flew Ebola patients in specially equipped planes last year. But, as reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Phoenix Air was only allowed to use drones in filmmaking, aerial inspection and agriculture.

Meanwhile, news broke that UK delivery firm, FPS Distribution, had beaten Amazon to the bragging rights over the first drone delivery test in the UK.  Working with Droneflight, a British drone maker, FPS delivered a parcel to a customer using a modified off-the-shelf drone that reportedly flies 30 miles per hour over seven miles before requiring battery recharge. The website of the Institution of Engineering and Technology was one of the sites that covered the story.

The week was also set a buzz by news that China’s biggest mail company, SF Express, was looking to double its fleet of drones – which already delivers 500 parcels a day in batches of 10 kilograms loads over a range of 20 kilometers. The Daily Mail and Crienglish, covered the SF Express story, drawing in part from reports in the Chinese People’s Daily and the IT Times.

Also in the week, Technologyreview.com reported on the six-rotor, hybrid gas-electric drone being developed by American start-up, Top Flight Technologies, while the Spectrum, the website of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) reported on the progress of American hybrid electric delivery trucks maker, Amp Holdings, to develop truck-deployed parcel delivery drones.

And The Mirror among others, spiced the week with reports of a backhanded compliment to the UAV industry by some creative gangsters who attempted to deliver drugs into a British prison using a drone.

Precision Agriculture Drones News RoundUp

There was plenty of news in the precision agricultural drone sector over the last two weeks. But, as has become the norm, the news was mostly on the increasing use of UAVs in farming  and the now common perception that agricultural drones are likely to be the first UAV sector to become mainstream.

Just about every news media that covered the sector reported an increasing clamor for drones by farmers, especially in the US, laced with confident predictions of a future when drones will be a common feature in farms. Among the notable media that covered that angle was USA Today, the Australian edition of the academic journal, The Conversation and perhaps most fittingly, the Prairie Star.

But there was hard news from the sector too. By far the most notable news – and the most widely covered – was FAA’s public consultation process over its proposed regulations for commercial drones. The FAA is taking public and industry feedback on its new agricultural UAV regulations, whose key point is that farmers will be required to get a pilot’s license to operate a drone. The news was covered by, among others, Tech Week Europe, Fox News, and the Argus Leader.  The inadequacy or otherwise of the regulations was also a big debating topic, covered by among others, The Bismarck Tribune.