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Amazon buzzes Congress for quick action on drone rules

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Amazon.com's Vice President for Global Public Policy Paul E. Misener told a Congressional committee Wednesday his company is concerned about the lag in action toward regulations that would provide guidance to unmanned aerial vehicle flying.

At a hearing with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Mr. Misener said his company disagrees with the Federal Aviation Administration's “overly prescriptive restrictions” which will result in “stifling innovation,” as he explained Amazon's new service, Amazon Prime Air, which promises direct home delivery of a package weighing less than 5 pounds in less than 30 minutes after ordering. Amazon's representative also suggested that rules for drones be federal rather than state level, since the FAA is a federal program.

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Advocacy Director and Senior Counsel Harley Geiger of the Washington-based Center for Democracy & Technology at the hearing agreed speed is needed and urged Congress to immediately begin setting rules for commercial drone use in order to prevent civil liberty violations and cyber security breaches.

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform member Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) echoed Mr. Geiger's growing concern over the confusion of which government entity will ultimately create and enforce drone regulations.

Other stakeholders attending the hearing included representatives from Arlington, Virginia-based Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Both organizations brought up NASA's latest technology in development: an air traffic management system emulating highways for cars, with roads and traffic lights for drone use.

FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker said at the House Oversight Committee meeting that the FAA will finalize U.S. commercial drone regulations within the next year or earlier.