The rise in demand for commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) is soaring, leaving federal and state regulators struggling to keep up. Privacy is the primary focus of the bills regulating state use of UAVs. There are already several laws on the books to regulate government agencies use of UAVs. Others are still pending, such as Massachusetts’ Bill S.1664.
Much like the proposed legislation of several other states, S.1664 is concerned with protecting citizens from unlawful monitoring and violations of their civil rights. Massachusetts Bill S.1664, introduced by Sen. Robert Hedlund, Rep. Colleen Garry and ACLU backed, focuses on two key areas: the bill will ban the use of weaponized drones in Massachusetts’ and it will limit the government’s use of drones to special circumstances.
These circumstances include: the execution of a warrant; observation, as long as the information cannot be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding or investigation or used for any intelligence purpose; and emergencies, such as when a threat to human life or safety is imminent. For example, when using UAVs for surveillance related to a warrant, the government may only collect data on the area listed in the warrant. No neighboring properties may be monitored (2).
The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that 7500 UAVs will be flying in our national airspace in the next five years. At the federal level, the law dictates that UAVs can be used for personal projects; the commercial use of UAVs is currently prohibited. However, commercial UAV pilots have been finding ways to get around the FAA ban on commercial use.
In the case of aerial photography, for example, they don’t charge for the flight and photo capture, but for the editing of aerial footage.
The FAA has been using a policy from the 1980s to regulate commercial UAV use. However, a March 6, 2014 decision by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) declared that the definitions of aircraft are not applicable to a model aircraft. In addition, model aircraft operation is only subject to voluntary compliance with the Safety Guidelines stated in AC91-57. UAV pilots shouldn’t rejoice just yet. The FAA is appealing the decision.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com