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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Opinion

Minnesotan beer delivery via drones grounded by FAA


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David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

Looks like things just got even bleaker for those in a Minnesota winter.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently killed the hopes and dreams of ice fisherman around the world when they placed a ban on beer delivery via drone. Lakemaid, a brewery in Wisconsin that is based in Minnesota, delivers its brew to a few states in the region. For the past few months, it seems it’s had a significant amount of time on its hands, as it just put the finishing touches on a revolutionary drone service. The service was still in the testing stages, but the concept seemed to be something universally beneficial.

Many of Lakemaid’s customers are ice fishermen — the brewery even calls its product “the fisherman’s lager.” Logistically, it doesn’t make sense for ice fishermen to abandon the post they’ve given their left pinkie toes for when the cravings for a cold one set in. So, Lakemaid figured a bunch of ice fishermen with little to no means of transportation wouldn’t mind having cases of beer delivered to their fishing holes via drone.

It made sense for everybody: Lakemaid gets to sell cases of beer (and assumedly charge a fee for the drone service), and the ice fishermen get to finally experience rosy cheeks that aren’t a result of icy windburn. It was fantastic.

The ice fishermen were still ice fishermen, though, but it still felt like a win.

Until, that is, the no-good, dirty, rotten FAA decided to step in and ruin all the fun. Earlier, Lakemaid had uploaded one of their preliminary drone test runs to YouTube, likely in an effort to generate buzz for the drones. That video eventually made its way across the desks of the FAA scoundrels, though, which means the end of a small business’s truly innovative delivery strategy.

According to CNN, the violation committed by Lakemaid was flying a drone for commercial business more than 400 feet off the ground. CNN also reported that the FAA is in the midst of writing comprehensive regulations that will help lift drone flight off the ground, but those regulations won’t likely be in effect until sometime next year.

“We were a little surprised at the FAA interest in this, since we thought we were operating under the 400-foot limit,” Lakemaid managing partner Jack Supple wrote in an email. Supple added that those at Lakemaid “figured a vast frozen lake was a lot safer place than (what) Amazon was showing on ’60 Minutes.’ “

Though it eventually surfaced that the drone videos shown during Jack Bezos’ infamous appearance on “60 Minutes” were filmed outside the U.S., the premature death of Lakemaid’s drone service still feels like a loss for small businesses. Their delivery bust also serves as a glimpse into what other commercial manufacturers may debut within the next few years, so at least it seems that there’s more to look forward to from our nation’s businesses.

As is to be expected, the great American people have already started a WhiteHouse.gov petition to allow Lakemaid’s aerial delivery system remain intact. So far, 1,412 signatures have already been garnered, and it’ll take a measly 98,588 more to officially require White House attention. Leave it to booze or Bieber to ignite a fire of camaraderie within the American people!

In all seriousness, though, it seems that Lakemaid had some pretty inventive ideas for their drone service.

Lakemaid was hoping to develop a partnership with Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake and Twin Pines Resort, places that both attract a significant amount of fishermen.

“My intent was to try a larger drone that could fly unmanned, based on just the coordinates” of an ice shack, Supple said. The Twin Pines resort “has fish houses out in the bay probably half a mile. So a little longer stretch than we first tested.”

Though it’s always a collective bummer when the government gets involved in small businesses, perhaps it’s for the best in this situation. Get a new technology, and some regulation might not be the worst thing in the world. After all, not all with access to drone technology might have intentions as pure as Lakemaid’s were.

“I understand their concern,” Supple said. “Drones whizzing around piloted by any knucklehead is probably not the ‘Jetsons’ future we all imagined.”

Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]


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