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FAA shuts down beer drones


Wisconsin-based microbrewer Lakemaid Beer had a pretty cool idea: delivering beer to the region’s thirsty ice fishermen through the magic of flying drones. It even went so far as to produce a very promising video to advertise the service.

Unfortunately, the Federal Aviation Administration caught wind of Lakemaid’s plans and has put the kibosh on our dreams of beer drones whipping through the skies, delivering refreshing bottles of happiness to all. Although there’s been plenty of talk about plans by Amazon and UPS plans to begin using drones for home delivery, it’s still illegal, with a few exceptions, to use drones for commercial purposes.

Only two models, Boeing’s Insitu ScanEagle and AeroVironment Inc.’s Puma, arecurrently certified for commercial use. However, the FAA is revising the rules and hopes to have a certification process in place by the end of 2014, hopefully kickstarting a multibillion-dollar industry.

“They think it’s a great idea,” Lakemaid president Jack Supple told The Verge. “They’re just telling me to stop.”

Of course, even once the certification process is solidified, delivering beer via drone is still a technical challenge. As it turns out, the case in the video isn’t even full. “It did deliver the box with something in it,” Supple says. “[But] we had to keep taking bottles out to get it off the ground.” The system isn’t fully automated, either—although the video depicts the drone taking the package to specific GPS coordinates, Supple admits that a human was always nearby piloting the machine.

Nonetheless, these are just minor bumps on the road to what promises to be a cool and refreshing future.


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