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.
There have been several new developments with drone technology at the state and federal regulatory level this week:
STATE REGULATION | Two lawmakers are taking steps to stop drones from interfering in firefighting efforts after several incidents in California. One bill, SB167, would increase fines and make jail time possible for drone use that interferes with firefighting efforts.
As mentioned in our most recent industry news highlight, incidents like those in California will become increasingly common as individuals and organizations continue to push the boundaries of drone technology. A more concentrated effort to educate drone users on the potential negative implications of their technology (like impeding an emergency situation) is critical to mitigating this risk.
FEDERAL REGULATION | Federal regulations are making it tough for commercial drone firms to keep flying, a Brooklyn businessman told Congress on July 15. Brian Streem, CEO of AeroCine, which operates drones for makers of feature films and commercials, told the House Small Business Committee that more needs to be done beyond the relaxed regulations proposed in February.
There continues to be tension between regulators and commercial operators of drones, as the FAA continues to develop rules governing use of the technology, however, the exponential rise in FAA exceptions shows the U.S. government’s willingness to collaborate with drone-related businesses. FTI believes that it is imperative that businesses continue to collaborate with regulatory efforts to better inform the new rules and regulations.
FEDERAL REGULATION | The U.S. Department of Commerce has scheduled a series of four meetings for stakeholders to craft industry standards and best practices for commercial and private use of drones. Those meetings will be held in Washington on Aug. 3, Sept. 24, Oct. 21 and Nov. 20, and participants will focus on issues with privacy, security and accountability when drones are used more widely. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama called on NTIA to hold the proceedings, and an open comment period in April brought in about 50 comments from the public.
We are thrilled to see more events like this one, that focus on getting combined stakeholder opinion to craft industry standards for the operation of drones. These best practices will not only better educate consumers on the potential risks of the technology, but also better inform regulatory proceedings to create a more favorable environment for drone-related businesses.
Further, there has been an influx of positive progress between commercial drone companies and FAA regulation:
REGULATION | Companies that broker drone services could soon be the biggest players in the U.S. commercial drone economy. In late June, Massachusetts-based startup Fly4Me opened for business, joining more than 500 (and counting) businesses in the U.S. that are now cleared by the FAA to operate drones commercially. Like most of its competition, Fly4Me’s so-called Section 333 exemption allows the company to deploy drones to gather aerial data and conduct research for commercial gain. However, the company differs greatly from other Section 333 holders, chiefly because it doesn’t actually operate any drones. Its website, launched in beta last month, connects drone pilots with companies that need aerial data collection, but don’t necessarily want to invest in their own drone fleet.
There is a huge breadth of drone-related businesses on the horizon, not all of them requiring an investment in hardware development. Companies like Fly4Me, Airware, Verifly, and more are equally instrumental in building a flourishing drone economy, and as such have an opportunity to get involved in the greater regulatory conversation.
REGULATION | The first FAA-approved drone delivery of medical supplies brought asthma, high blood pressure, and diabetes medications to sick patients at a sprawling rural health clinic in Virginia on June 17.
This was an instrumental demonstration of the power and impact of drone-powered businesses. Companies like Matternet have pioneered the concept of delivering medical supplies to challenged areas via drone, but this is the first time the concept has been tested on U.S. soil, and approved by the FAA. As Amazon contiues it’s development into drone delivery as well, we expect to see great technological process in this area, as well as an emphasis on the topic in regulatory discussions.