DETROIT, MI – A spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration said a metro Detroit company’s plans to deliver flowers via drones for Valentine’s Day could run afoul of federal regulations.
FlowerDeliveryExpress, based in Walled Lake, announced on Tuesday that it would be testing an “Alternative Delivery Method Beta Program,” in which unmanned aircraft bring floral arrangements to customers’ doorsteps.
“Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft — manned or unmanned — in U.S. airspace needs some level of authorization from the FAA,” an emailed statement from the FAA says. “Private sector (civil) users can get an experimental airworthiness certificate to do research and development, training and flight demonstrations.”
To date, only one operation has met these criteria, and it was limited to the Arctic, the statement says.
FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory told MLive Wednesday, “They can’t use it for commercial purposes, that’s the bottom line.”
A message seeking comment with FlowerDeliveryExpress, which is owned by Wesley Berry Flowers, was left Wednesday morning.
In its own beta testing, the FAA selected six states as test sites for unmanned aircraft, or drones, and Michigan is not among them.
That came as bad news in December for Detroit Aircraft Company, which has been building and testing drones at Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport. DAC president and CEO Jon Rimanelli told MLive in early December that he and others throughout the state had been lobbying to have Michigan included in the FAA’s testing.
Later that month, The Associated Press reported that Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia were selected by the FAA to be the test states. In making its selections, the FAA considered a variety of factors such as climate, established infrastructure and aviation experience.
Rimanelli and his staff of six at DAC rent two hangars at the nearly vacant Detroit airport, where they build drones designed to fly reconnaissance missions for law enforcement and first responders, or to deliver packages for large companies such as UPS or FedEx. The latter use was big news this month with Amazon.com announcing it hopes to deliver packages with drones by 2015.
Rimanelli said that Detroit, with its glut of manufacturing and engineering capacity, should be at the forefront of what he said is an inevitable next step in aviation.
In a statement Tuesday, FlowerDeliveryExpress CEO Wesley Berry said, “Drones are an emerging technology that will provide an economically viable shipping option for our customers. We believe the use of drones will become common practice in the near future.”
According to the FAA, his company may have jumped the gun.
Here is the full statement sent from the FAA:
“Commercial UAS Use
February 11, 2014
Commercial operations are only authorized on a case-by-case basis. A commercial flight requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and operating approval. To date, only one operation has met these criteria, using Insitu’s ScanEagle, and authorization was limited to the Arctic.
Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft — manned or unmanned — in U.S. airspace needs some level of authorization from the FAA. Private sector (civil) users can get an experimental airworthiness certificate to do research and development, training and flight demonstrations.
Public entities (federal, state and local governments, and public universities) may apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), which, when approved provides authorization for UAS operations in the NAS.
Flying model aircraft solely for hobby or recreational reasons does not require FAA approval, but hobbyists must operate according to the agency’s model aircraft guidance.
In a November 2007 Federal Register Notice, the FAA recognized that people and companies other than modelers might be flying UAS with the mistaken understanding they are legally operating under authority of the model aircraft guidance, but we stressed that the guidance only applies to modelers, and thus specifically excludes its use by persons or companies for business purposes.”