Thursday, September 10, 2015

Inactivity by FAA leading states to create own regulations on commercial drone use

While the Federal Aviation Administration sits on its hands about official commercial drone regulations, several states have been "eager to pass their own policies on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), mandating everything from where drones can be flown to whether law enforcement can use them to gather evidence," Sarah Breitenbach reports for Stateline. "But advocates for the technology, which is growing in popularity both commercially and among hobbyists, say legislatures are overstepping their authority and hamstringing an industry ripe for growth." (Free Lance-Star photo by Peter Cihelka: Joshua Olds launches a drone during a precision farming demonstration in August in Bruington, Va.)

"According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), an industry-supported group, at least six states—Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon and Virginia—have passed legislation restricting the commercial use of drones," Breitenbach writes. "Another eight have restrictive legislation pending, and 45 states considered at least 156 bills relating to drones this year," FAA in February drafted limits on drones, but final rules could still be two or three years away. It is currently illegal to fly commercial drones in the U.S., but FAA has granted more than 1,000 exemptions for businesses to use the aircrafts.

Michael Drobac, executive director for the Small UAV Coalition, said that "drones are being used in a rapidly growing number of industries," Breitenbach writes. "FAA estimated as many as 7,500 small commercially operated drones could be in use by 2018 if the necessary regulations are put in place. The devices can be used by realtors to showcase properties, by utility companies to safely inspect cellphone towers and high-voltage power lines, and by farmers to monitor crops."

Tom McMahon, a spokesman for AUVSI, said regulating how drones can be used is unnecessary because "existing state-level policies on privacy, trespassing and harassment can be used to address illegal acts committed with drones," Breitenbach writes. He told her, "It’s a new technology, but don’t restrict the technology. Instead, prosecute the person who is using the technology maliciously.” (Read more)

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