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FAA authorizes autonomous drone flight without an operator nearby

You could soon be able to buy and operate your own autonomous drone, thanks to the first approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of an automated drone that can operate without a human pilot on site. The company American Robotics announced it has received FAA approval for its A.I.-powered drone which can operate safely even when the operator isn’t within line of sight.

Autonomous drones are already used in applications like patrolling military bases, but until now there hasn’t been a commercially available drone that flew autonomously.

The drones won’t be allowed complete freedom from humans though — a pilot will still need to oversee the operation of the drone remotely. The pilot won’t have to be physically on-site with the drone to operate it, but they will need to keep an eye on it from a distance. That means there’s still a way to go before completely autonomous commercial drones will be available, so don’t start planning out your autonomous drone operation plans just yet.

Still, the approval does mean that American Robotics will be able to sell their remote-operated drones which can perform complex autonomous maneuvers. They have detection and avoidance capabilities to avoid other aircraft and a self-charging system where they land in a charging and data processing station. The data processing function allows the collecting and processing of data about flights, which has almost endless potential uses.

“With these approvals, American Robotics is ushering in a new era of widespread automated drone operations,” Reese Mozer, CEO and co-founder of American Robotics, said in a statement. “Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition.

“We are proud to be the first company to meet the FAA’s comprehensive safety requirements, which had previously restricted the viability of drone use in the commercial sector. We are very grateful for the FAA’s willingness to work closely with American Robotics over the past four years on this precedent-setting authorization. With this set of approvals, American Robotics can begin safely operating our automated Scout platform for the benefit of the energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and security market verticals, helping unlock the projected $100 billion commercial drone market.”

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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