There’s an old Emo Philips joke about trusting advice from the government: “I pleaded guilty on advice of counsel. Which is the last time I listen to a prosecuting attorney.” Amazon, Lakemaid Brewery, and FlowerDeliveryExpress.com should listen to his warning. Just because the FAA says it has the authority to regulate drones doesn’t mean it actually does.
Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration maintains that anyone operating a drone in the United States must obtain an experimental aircraft permit, which severely limits the number of active drones and the parties permitted to fly them. However, a closer look at the statutory and regulatory laws governing the FAA suggests that the administration may not actually have the authority to require those permits or limit drone usage. If I had a company that wanted to deliver beer by unmanned aerial vehicle (and I wish I did), there are three points I’d raise in my defense against fines levied by the FAA for unlicensed drone delivery.