New technology, including drones, and startups, including drone startups, fascinate me. So much so, that I plan on obtaining a UAV Pilot Training Certificate.
The possibilities for drone use are simply amazing, from first responders, to insurance claims handlers, to farmers, to aerial photographers and videographers, to real estate and land developers, to recreational users.
NASA drone “Greased Lightening” takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter, and then flies like an airplane. This drone is nothing short of amazing.
The Flight of the Drones
Hobbyists & Recreational Users
During the last holiday season, many people received a drone or mini-drone as a gift. These users are thinking about having fun when they fly drones. One hopes that they use common sense and reasonable care when they fly their drones.
Commercial users can be become certified pilots and certain craft can be certified. Due to the investment made in the cost of the gear, commercial users are often the safest pilots. Let’s see if that holds true as commercial uses expand.
The Law of Drones
Current US Drone Law
While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned commercial drones in 2007, the agency still approves usage on a case-by-case basis, such as drones launched for academic research or public safety.
One year ago, for the first time, the FAA authorized an unmanned aircraft flight for commercial purposes over the US. The oil and gas company, BP, and drone manufacturer, AeroVironment, obtained authorization to fly the Puma AE to survey Alaska’s North Slope to oversee maintenance on infrastructure.
Since then, those involved in real estate, agriculture, land surveying, photography, videography, film, research, data collection, and safety inspections, are hopeful about taking advantage of commercial drones.
This year, the FAA approved limited commercial drone use, which some argue, at best, is confusing.
For those who want to take a deeper dive into the waivers and authorizations available from the FAA, Peter Sachs, Esq. has written an excellent summary of current US Drone Law.
For an historical analysis, Jeff Foster’s comprehensive article on the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of drone law points out that currently, hobbyists are given more leeway than commercial drone users for the very same usage.
One cannot ignore the safety hazards and the privacy issues that arise from the use of drones. Common sense and reasonable care will help ensure a certain amount of safety, but certainly some safety failures will occur. Expectations of privacy in one’s home, back yard, school, business or neighborhood will likely be addressed via new legislation or in the courts.
A Growth Industry for the US
The drone industry is all about growth with plenty of startups looking to innovate and become success stories in the US. Of course, the potential for positive economic impact needs to be weighed against safety and privacy issues. Ideally, all participants will seek to find the best balance between business growth and minimizing the risks.
We have an opportunity to encourage this growth industry despite some of the safety and privacy risks that drones pose.
Let’s educate the drone users, and enforcers, to allow for a safe industry that can flourish over the next five years.
As the Baltimore Sun pointed out about McCullough’s The Wright Brothers, let’s honor what we once honored: “vision, initiative, talent, genius, and entrepreneurship, faith, even clean living.”