A petition has been started on the White House’s website hoping to reverse a ban the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made on a Wisconsin brewery’s beer drone. Wisconsin-based Lakemaid Beers recently announced plans to use an unmanned aircraft to deliver beer to fisherman out on lakes. However, company president Jack Supple was informed by the FAA that it was a violation of the law, which currently prohibits the commercial use of small drones. The White House has pledged that any petitions with over 100,000 online signatures will be addressed by the government.
Supple has noted that initial tests for the drone were very successful and that the company had planned to test the drones on larger bodies of water before the FAA induced ban. The idea originated in order to deliver the company’s products to ice fisherman. Supple proclaimed he got the idea from Amazon, which had recently released a similar proposal to send drones through cities. He claimed it would be much easier to fly them over water. YouTube videos showing the drone became went viral and Supple has received support from beer enthusiasts around the country. However, in a statement he acknowledged the problems that could arise from using the drones and respects regulation put forth by the FAA.
The beer drone petition started on the White House’s website was created out of discontent of the agency’s ruling. It demonizes the FAA for revoking authorization for a struggling business to deliver its products via drone. The petition praises Lakemaid Beers’ innovative technique saying it allows the business to grow its brand. According to the petition, the FAA does not have the authority to stifle economic growth. It currently has around 1,000 signatures, 99,000 short of what is needed by the March 1, 2014, deadline.
In a statement by FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory, the regulatory agency defended its decision saying it was concerned with peoples’ safety. In an email to the company, the FAA claimed Supple was in violation of at least four regulations and any use of commercial drones was illegal. The agency is not expected to release new regulations regarding the commercial use of drones for another year. Supple said that in the meantime, his company plans on further developing the concept by finding locations that would be suitable for launching drones, if they are in fact ever to be legalized for this purpose. He also mentioned that if he conducts any more tests, the videos will not be published online.
The online petition attempting to legalize beer drones highlights the difficulty of regulating new technology. On one hand, the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens. Supple seemingly understands this mentioning that numerous people are figuring out new ways to use this technology and the FAA was simply trying to keep up. On the other hand, many believe that the government should not interfere but rather allow technology to evolve alongside the trends of a free market. The beer drone idea seems comical, but in reality it is sure to be the topic of future economic and political debate.
By Peter Grazul