Drone advocates are impatient as the market roars on, but the FAA remains flightless.
This week, 33 drone-advocacy groups sent a letter to FAA administrator, Michael Huerta, encouraging the FAA to publish the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), which many advocates fear will face significant delays and cause drone regulations to continue flying in limbo.
“The time for resolution has come, and we cannot afford any further delays. The technology is advancing faster than the regulations to govern it,” the letter said. In the letter were estimates that the drone market will lead to the creation of 100,000 jobs and an $82 billion economic impact. “With each passing day that the commercial integration is delayed, the United States continues to fall behind…. While the FAA has indicated its intention to appeal the Pirker decision to the full National Transportation Safety Board, we strongly encourage the FAA to simultaneously expedite its small UAS rulemaking and issue notice and public comment as soon as possible.”
The letter was sent just over one month after the decision of the FAA vs. Pirker case, a crucial moment for drone advocates. On March 7th, an administrative law judge determined the FAA illegally slapped commercial drone user, Raphael Pirker, with a $10,000 fine for using a drone for filming purposes. The FAA appealed the decision, and still maintains that commercial drones are illegal until the FAA places regulations.
Drone users behind the letter to the FAA are not looking for no regulation, but simply reasonable. “The safety of our skies and fellow citizens is our top priority,” the letter said. “That is why we support regulations to govern the technology.”
Don’t be mistaken—the hubbub isn’t for naught. In February, Bloomberg interviewed Eileen Peskoff, who’d been struck by a 4-foot helicopter drone while attending a running-of-the-bulls-like festival in Petersburg, VA. “You sign up for something called running the bulls, you think the only thing you’ll get hurt by is a 1,200-pound bull,” she told Bloomberg. Unlike smaller drones, the larger type of aircraft that struck Peskoff is illegal. But it is incidents like this one, which are cause for concern as regulation of smaller drones is under debate.
In the meantime, despite the significant delays, and the likelihood that the FAA will miss Congress’s requirement of the FAA to outline rules and regulations by 2015, the commercial drone market continues to fly forward. UAV companies aimed at the ag sector such as PrecisionHawk and 3D Robotics will all be affected by future regulation, but continue with operations and funding.
Of course outside of the ag world, there’s drone-buzz, too. Kickstarter’s UAV claim-to-fame, The Pocket Drone, has recently closed with commitments of $929,212, zooming past it’s $35,000 goal. This week, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos affirmed that his ambitious vision for Amazon’s use of drones for package delivery wasn’t a marketing ploy, like many suspected, but a serious intention.
While countries like Canada and Japan show more drone-friendly policies can safely and effectively be maintained, American UAV/drone companies maintain their tech while tapping their toes, hoping the FAA will hurry up to catch the flight.
FEATURED PHOTO: Ed Schipul/Flickr