A partnership with NASA has enabled Google to test-fly its drones in US airspace, dodging federal aviation regulations. Citing current rules as too restrictive, several US tech companies have conducted their drone research elsewhere.
While Amazon used a research facility in Vancouver just across the US border in Canada, Google tested its Project Wing drones in Australia. However, Google seems to have also tested its drones on US soil, using a partnership with NASA to obtain certificates of authorization (COA) to skirt restrictions imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to the Guardian’s Mark Harris.
Though both NASA and Google declined to comment on the arrangement, the Guardian says it obtained a document in which NASA said it might issue COAs to conduct “joint field tests” of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). FAA regulations allow government agencies to invoke COAs for UAS testing if they are the exclusive owners or operators of the drones. Commercial operations are prohibited.