As FTI continues to hone in on the world of drone-related business and policy, we’ve cherry picked some interesting snapshots from the previous week with our thoughts on their implications.
FTI’s TMT team routinely analyzes and evaluates conversation and events in the nascent drone space, posting content we hope will prove to be a valuable resource on UAV information that connect the dots between technology, policy and business.
For a start, we continue to see a variety of potential stakeholders looking to benefit from drone technology. Here are the important regulatory and state specific snapshots from the previous week:
- REGULATION| Drones may be taking their place in America’s airspace, but some state lawmakers are worried there is not enough regulation on how the government can use them, and may consider a moratorium on their use by state and local government agencies. Sen. Mike Folmer (R-PA) is proposing legislation that would institute a moratorium on most uses of drones by state and local government agencies until July 2017, but things like search and rescue, National Guard exercises and Amber Alert situations would be exempt from this.
At FTI, we believe such a moratorium would be a serious mistake and only serve to let the U.S. fall even further behind its European counterparts in the regulation of drones and pushing both the technology and legislation forward at comparable pace.
Recent developments within FAA regarding use of drones:
- REGULATION | The FAA is issuing permits for the commercial use of drones at a rate of about 250 a month as it tries to meet the growing demand for unmanned aircraft while it develops rules for their use. Through the end of June, the agency had approved 714 permits, a 14-fold increase from 51 at the end of March, according to a database compiled by Bloomberg News using federal data. The FAA says it won’t have permanent rules in place until next year but in April instituted an expedited approval process using temporary standards.
- REGULATION | The FAA is famously strict about who gets to fly drones in the U.S., but it has opened up a bit this year under pressure from would-be drone users and lawmakers. Approximately 500 exemptions have now been issued to operators using the devices for everything from crop inspections to filmmaking.
- REGULATION | Congress will decide whether to better define the role and responsibilities of the FAA in ensuring the cybersecurity of the nation’s aviation system as it considers FAA reauthorization, the Congressional Research Service says a in short “Insight” note. The note, posted the morning of June 30 by the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, is dated June 18 and addresses cybersecurity in the aviation sector.
- REGULATION | Over the July 4th holiday, the FAA reminded residents and visitors to Washington, D.C. that the city and surrounding communities are “No Drone Zones.” The prohibition against flying any type of unmanned aircraft, or “drone,” without specific approval includes the District of Columbia and cities and towns within a 15-mile radius of Ronald-Reagan Washington National Airport. The FAA is conducting the “No Drone Zone” campaign so visitors and residents thoroughly understand that operating an unmanned aircraft in this area for any purpose is against the law.
- REGULATION | Drone deliveries in the U.S. will soon be an official, government-sanctioned activity. On July 17, the FAA will allow collaboration between NASA, Flirtey and Virginia Tech to fly unmanned aircrafts to deliver pharmaceuticals to a free medical clinic in West Virginia. The fixed wing aircraft from NASA Langley and multi-rotor delivery drones from Flirtey will become the world’s first autonomous aerial delivery services.
Recent developments with drone technology at the state level:
- REGULATION| Drone enthusiasts are calling a ban on the unmanned vehicles within five miles of Georgia’s Capitol an overreach of authority by state officials, while agency officials argue the change is necessary and follows federal guidelines. It’s the latest clash between supporters of the technology and government officials balancing their desire to encourage high-tech research and development with security concerns, as federal aviation officials slowly continue developing their policies.
- PRIVACY AND SECURITY| On July 1, a law aimed at protecting Floridians from unwanted surveillance is one of more than 100 that took effect. While the law — labeled the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act — spells out that unmanned aerial drones can’t be used for surveillance, it does spell out when devices can be used. Drones can be used to assess property taxes, for aerial mapping, and to conduct environmental monitoring. The law also says that a person licensed by the state to perform “reasonable tasks within the scope” of the person’s job can use drones.
- LAW ENFORCEMENT | Virginia law enforcement agencies can begin using drones, but don’t expect the skies to be filled with police-piloted quadcopters just yet. Officers are still refining piloting skills and learning about legal implications — the laws requires police to obtain search warrants authorizing such use.
- REGULATION| New Mexico failed to pass legislation during the regular session that would have taken a first step toward regulating the use of drones in the state. On July 6, the Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee met in Albuquerque to hear from a panel of experts about the advancement of the technology and its possible uses as well as concerns about privacy. Committee Chair Rep. James Smith, (R-NM) said future legislation would have to target the uses and issues that stem from those uses given that the technology is always evolving. “We have some work to do,” he told the committee.
- COMMERCE| Drones, once regarded as only military weapons or hobbyists’ toys, appear poised to become mainstream in the U.S. and already have become big business in Nevada. Steve Hill, executive director the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, has estimated Nevada’s drone industry could have an economic impact of up to $8 billion annually.