Company owner finds himself “on the FAA blacklist”
January 30, 2014
A popular beer company received a verbal slap-down from the government this week after it released a video depicting beer deliveries being conducted by flying drones.
The video, produced by Lakemaid Beer, quickly went viral on the internet. It shows a 12 pack of beer being attached to a small drone which then flies to a remote shack where some fishermen (and women) enjoy a cold one.
A press release accompanying the video described how the Minnesota-based company had been testing the beer drones at ice fishing lakes in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“It’s the perfect proving ground for drone delivery,” said the company’s president, Jack Supple. “Our initial tests on several mid-size lakes have been very successful. We’re looking forward to testing the range of our drones on larger lakes.”
However, that plan seems to have hit a snag following not one but two calls this week to Lakemaid from The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).
Supple told the New York Daily News. “I’m on the FAA blacklist for now… They’re not too happy with me.”
The FAA “said I would be in violation of some code, I can’t remember what the number was,” Supple told The News. “They sent me 74 pages all about the code.”
The law currently restricts commercial use of small drones. The FAA is currently still formulating legislation to cover the use of such technology in US skies.
Still, the ad has prompted a great deal of free publicity, much as Amazon’s delivery drone ad last year did.
Indeed, Supple pointed to Amazon as the inspiration for his own drones. “Amazon faces a lot of obstacles,” said Supple. “Dense urban locations present a host of problems to drone delivery. But our tests are on vast, wide-open frozen lakes free of trees and power lines. Our drone can fly as the crow flies, straight to our target, based on GPS coordinates provided by an ice angler.
Supple had believed that because his drones were operating in sparsely populated areas with structure free horizons, he could circumvent the law. Obviously, he was wrong.
The Amazon drone ad, as well as FedEx plans to deploy drones, were met with warnings that the devices could be used to gather private information on customers. Lawmakers called for stricter privacy controls, while technology experts warned that the drones will inevitably crash into people and other objects because the technology is not yet sophisticated enough to equip the drones with spatial awareness that would prevent collisions.