|FAA Slaps Down Drone Beer Delivery Service to Ice Fishermen|
|By LIZ FIELDS (@lianzifields)||Jan 31, 2014, 11:41 AM|
An ingenious new drone beer delivery service proposed by a Minnesota Micro Brewery to rush beer to thirsty ice fishermen across frozen lakes has had its wings clipped by the feds.
Less than a week after the company posted a buzzy promotional YouTube video chronicling the first test flights across mid-sized lakes, the Federal Aviation Administration called Lakemaid Beer to immediately pull the unmanned beer from the skies.
"As much as they thought it was a funny idea, it was a violation of all sorts of codes," Lakemaid Beer Company President Jack Supple told ABC News, adding he's determined to keep pushing to get his idea off the ground.
"I understand why they had to shut it down, but I would like to do it for our fishermen," said Supple, lamenting the missed opportunities that the coming Super Bowl weekend could have brought for the business. "The fishermen are going to sit there from Friday 5 p.m. all the way through Sunday. That's a long time to be out there on a frozen lake."
This is "barley news," FAA spokesman Les Dorr joked this morning to ABC News when asked to comment on why the FAA shut down Lakemaid's operation. "The media just hops on it. I hope things finally have come to a head."
Despite the jovial tone, the illegal use of drones for commercial purposes is a serious matter, Dorr said.
"The FAA's prime directive is safety and while we are evaluating a lot of different potential uses of unmanned aircraft as we're moving toward safely integrating them into the national airspace, commercial operations of unmanned aircraft is not allowed," Dorr said.
The FAA is currently reviewing a set of guidelines and expects to publish proposed rules on small unmanned aircraft under 55 pounds later this year, while regulations governing commercial drones won't be issued until 2015.
Supple concedes the FAA has its work cut out for it, as "there's going to be a million ideas and I don't want to get hit in the head with a pair of dress shoes ordered from Amazon."
But in contrast to Amazon's proposed drone package delivery operation announced late last year, Supple said Lakemaid's drones will face less obstacles -- namely of the skyscraper and billboard kind.
"Dense urban locations present a host of problems to drone delivery," Supple said in an earlier statement. But our tests are on vast, wide-open frozen lakes free of trees and power lines."
His drones would instead be able to "fly as the crow flies, straight to our target based on GPS coordinates. Fish houses are very uniform in height, so we can fly lower than FAA limits, too," he said.
The other issue Supple need to flush out is payment.
"We figured initially that it might be the fisherman pay in person first and then call for the beer," said Supple. "But eventually you could have one of those card slides that you plug into the iPhone."
But how does a GPS-piloted drone determine someone's identity and prevent underage drinking or credit card fraud?
"A pilot maneuvered drone could possibly confirm that," Supple said. "But we have time to work it out."