UPDATE 1-With U.S. drone rules set, firms race for flight data

Fri Sep 23, 2016 2:48pm EDT
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(Rewrites throughout, adds industry comments, examples of drone use, details on FAA waivers for drones)

By Nick Carey and Nandita Bose

Sept 23 (Reuters) - United Parcel Service Inc's launch this week of drone test flights simulating emergency medical-supply deliveries highlights a race for data to prove such deliveries can be performed safely.

UPS's medical emergency at the Children's Island summer camp off the Massachusetts coast was fictional. But gathering data about the drone's flight and others like it is a vital part of a new effort to convince U.S. regulators to loosen the reins on using robotic aircraft for deliveries.

UPS's test flight was handled by drone maker CyPhy Works, in which it owns a stake.

"The technology for drones is there and it's moving extremely fast," said CyPhy founder Helen Greiner. "But it's also true that we need to prove we can operate them safely and reliably."

The UPS-CyPhy test comes amid a burst of U.S. drone activity, including companies focusing on package delivery. Amazon.com Inc is focusing on tests abroad, but UPS and others want to win over the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, whose primary concern is safety.

The Obama administration estimates the commercial drone industry could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and support up to 100,000 new jobs by 2025.

The FAA's rules published on Aug. 29 dictate conditions for commercial drones. The aircraft must weigh under 55 pounds (25 kg), may not fly over people not involved in operations and must remain within the operator's line of sight.   Continued...