(Source: Washington Examiner)
Lawmakers will press Transportation Department officials in a hearing Wednesday on why it has taken the Obama administration so long to come up with rules for how businesses can use unmanned aerial drones, and why leaked reports suggest the rules it will come up with will be highly restrictive.
The hearing comes as Amazon has warned that it will move its drone research out of the country if the FAA follows through with strict rules. Lawmakers on both sides have warned that the rules threaten to put the U.S. behind other countries in harnessing the emerging technology, but administration officials have said safety must come first.
In a recent letter to the FAA, Amazon vice president of global public policy Paul Misener warned: “Without the ability to test outdoors in the United States soon, we will have no choice but to divert even more of our [drone] research and development resources abroad. I fear the FAA may be questioning the fundamental benefits of keeping technology innovation in the United States.” The letter was obtained by the Wall Street Journal.
Wednesday’s hearing will be held by the House Transportation Committee’s aviation subcommittee, which is headed by Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J. It will represent lawmakers’ first opportunity to question Transportation Department officials about the plans since the proposed rules were leaked.
“Chairman LoBiondo will be focusing primarily on the safety concerns of integration of [drones] into the airspace, the delays FAA has already encountered in meeting the timelines set by Congress in the 2012 FAA authorization bill, and the economic impact of these delays to the United States in light of advancements in countries such as France, Germany and Canada,” committee spokesman Jason Galanes told the Washington Examiner.
The administration has been under pressure from Congress since 2012 to develop regulations for commercial use of unmanned aircraft. Drone technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, with companies planning on using it for everything from aerial photography to watering and dusting crops and even package delivery. The FAA estimates that $89 billion will be invested worldwide in drone use over the next decade.
FAA officials have said they would release the proposed rules before the end of the year. It likely will take another year before the rules are finalized.
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