Amazon, Facebook and Google have sky-high hopes for drones — but government regulations have grounded their plans in the United States and pushed some companies to try their luck overseas.
Strict federal rules still prohibit tech giants, movie studios and other commercial operators from flying their unmanned aerial vehicles. Even before those crafts can be tested stateside, experimenters must labor to win the Federal Aviation Administration’s blessings.
Those government hurdles have some drone advocates worried the United States might lose out on new investments and jobs. And the signs of overseas flight already are surfacing: Google on Thursday said it is testing its new drone effort in Australia, which is known for its relaxed rules. Meanwhile, commercial drone endeavors continue to pop up around the world, from Japan to India.
“This is the first time in history that the United States is not leading the industry in an aviation-related technology,” said Brendan Schulman, a lawyer at Kramer Levin in New York who represents several clients challenging the FAA’s ban on commercial drone operations.
The FAA’s tough restrictions are designed with safety or privacy in mind. For now, the agency has set up six commercial drone test sites scattered across the country and has started allowing drone use in four specific industries. However, most commercial drone use remains illegal until the agency finishes its long-awaited rules — expected in September 2015 at the earliest. In the meantime, the FAA has cracked down on experimenters, dispatching 12 “warning letters” this year to drone operators who ran afoul of the law.
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