COMMERCE TWP. (WWJ) - A federal judge's ruling last week that the Federal Aviation Administration has no jurisdiction over small drone aircraft means a Commerce Township florist will resume testing flower delivery by drone.
FlowerDeliveryExpress.com, the online unit of Wesley Berry Flowers, was testing drone delivery the weekend before Valentine's Day, but was ordered to stop by the FAA.
(The Feb. 8 delivery can be seen in the YouTube video below).
But last week, federal administrative law judge Patrick Geraghty ruled that if he accepted the FAA's argument for regulating drones, "a flight in the air of a paper airplane or a toy balsa wood glider could subject the operator" to FAA penalties. The ruling applies to flights below 400 feet.
Geraghty was ruling in the case of a photographer who was fined $10,000 for "reckless flying" after using a drone to shoot a promotional video for the University of Virginia in 2011.
Bloomberg reported that FAA rules on drones weighing less than 55 pounds are still due out by November. The rules have been delayed more than three years.
But now that there are apparently no rules, Berry said, "the next step for us is more testing. We still want to be good citizens. We have to do some more testing on it and develop it into a more seamless and available product."
The testing will prove out the drone delivery concept in terms of payload and range, Berry said. He said he didn't know when drone delivery might be available to the general public.
"Our anticipation is that it's still going to take a little while in order to become a commercially viable product," Berry said. "Long term we expect this to be something very viable, but the only way we can get there is by doing the tests."
Berry Flowers has locations in downtown Detroit, northwest Detroit and Commerce Township in the northwest suburbs. Berry said the testing would take place "in the Commerce area."
Berry heard from the FAA by phone after posting the YouTube video of the Feb. 8 delivery test. Curiously enough, Berry said, "the FAA didn't call us up this time to let us know" about the court ruling.
Consumers can sign up for the beta test group at www.FlowerDeliveryExpress.com/beta. Participation is not guaranteed, and you must be a U.S. resident.
FlowerDeliveryExpress.com delivers from its own brick and mortar flower shops with its own delivery fleet, and through FedEx and UPS from coast to coast. Deliveries are also made via a computerized sending network of affiliated shops. The company provides delivery throughout most of the United States, Canada, and more than 80 countries around the world.
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