from The Epoch Times
The commercial use of drones is expected to surge. We’ve already seen their utility in military applications, law enforcement and border patrol. At the low cost of a few thousand dollars or few hundred dollars, a drone is cheap to purchase or assemble from a kit.
The range of potential uses is as wide as one’s imagination: Aerial photos to aid fisherman locate schools of fish, and farmers to monitor their crops. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, on 60 Minutes last December, showed Amazon’s laboratory for developing a drone to deliver light packages in a 10-mile radius within 30 minutes.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is mindful of the high interest in the use of drones. “The list of potential uses is now rapidly expanding to encompass a broad range of other activities, including aerial photography, surveying land and crops, communications and broadcast, monitoring forest fires and environmental conditions, and protecting critical infrastructures,” stated the FAA.
However, with few exceptions, the commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—the official name for drones—has not been permitted since 2007 in the United States. It first must be integrated in the National Airspace System (NAS).
The frustration with the slow pace at which the FAA is proceeding was palpable at a news conference at the National Press Club last week. Panel members said that the FAA is holding back commercial use of UAS. It’s making glacial progress toward establishing a legal and regulatory framework to safely operate them.
“Until they get these rules of the road out there, nothing commercially is going to take off [with a few exceptions],” said Ben Gielow, who represents a UAS manufacturer trade association. He is general counsel and senior government relations manager of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
Once the FAA writes safety rules, this industry is poised to create 100,000 jobs and over $80 billion economic impact in the next decade, according to AUVSI report last year, said Gielow. “For every day that the FAA is late, it is going to cost our economy $27 million in lost economic potential,” he said.
“The industry is waiting to be regulated. How many industries are begging the federal government to regulate them?” he asked.
The FAA is dragging its feet. It had promised to have the safety regulations in place by 2011, Gielow said.
Congress is also impatient. The 2012 FAA reauthorization bill directed the FAA to safely integrate UAS in the airspace by Sept. 30, 2015. It’s not going to make the date, said Gielow, who cited the GAO and the Department of Transportation Inspector General’s Office.
The rules for small UAS were supposed to be written by August. With the rulemaking process and finalizing the rules, the earliest a 4-pound aircraft will be allowed to fly “anything from real estate photography to helping a farmer monitoring his crops” is the second quarter 2016, Gielow said.
“That simply is not acceptable and the reality is that folks are not waiting,” said Gielow.