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Is the Future of Aerial Autonomy Up in the Air?

  • Magazine Article
  • 19AVEP03_13
Published March 01, 2019 by SAE International in United States
  • English

As autonomous-drone and air-taxi concepts debut, legal hurdles will need to be cleared before the skies are automated.

Autonomous vehicle technology literally has nowhere to go but up. At CES '19, more than 170 exhibitors showed aerial drones of various shapes and sizes. Potential use cases for these devices appear to be limitless, but technical, legal and regulatory hurdles must first be overcome.

Drones are categorized by vehicle weight. The small devices weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds (.25 kg to 25 kg) are known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and are lightly regulated. Drones exceeding 55 lb are regulated as traditional aircraft. Operators must obtain proper registration, licenses and certification for airworthiness.