business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Bloomberg reports that the drone wars may officially have begun, as Wing Aviation, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet Inc., has become “the first drone operator to receive government approval as an airline, an important step that gives it the legal authority to begin dropping products to actual customers.”

Wing, according to the story, “now has the same certifications that smaller airlines receive from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation. It plans to begin routine deliveries of small consumer items in two rural communities in Virginia within months, the company said.”

While “drone regulations still don’t permit most flights over crowds and urban areas,” Bloomberg writes, “limiting where Wing can operate … the approvals signed by the FAA on Friday and Monday give the company the ability to charge for deliveries of clients’ goods in Virginia and apply for permission to expand to other regions.”

And, the Wall Street Journal writes: “Because Tuesday’s green light currently covers only a rural area around Blacksburg, Va., it doesn’t resolve longstanding industry hurdles including security concerns about widespread drone operations, or current restrictions on commercial drone flights over populated areas.

“By giving its approval to Wing, which was created in Google’s technology incubator and is now owned by the tech giant, the FAA is signaling its determination to approve so-called air-carrier certifications even before a full regulatory framework is in place, according to industry officials.”

Seems pretty clear to me that the flight path to a more robust drone delivery infrastructure has been opened, and it will be populated by more players - not to mention more drones - sooner rather than later.

There will be turbulence, of course. We’ll need a strong regulatory framework to make sure this business doesn’t get out of hand. There will be some markets where this won’t be workable, but a lot of places where it will soon be seen as preferable to traditional truck deliveries. And I think it’ll have to be opt-in for consumers, who won’t react well if a drone starts dropping off stuff without permission.

But it is happening. And it’l be an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: