(Source: Market Watch)
Whenever someone approaches me as I’m flying a drone, the first thing they ask is, “so, are you trying to spy on someone?”
And every time, my answer is no. Unlike your surprisingly stealthy iPhone camera, drones are too large to not see. They’re also too loud to not hear. Have you heard one? They sound like a pack of bees.
“New innovation is often feared, because innovation challenges the status quo,” said Lisa Ellman, who formerly led the Justice Department’s working group on domestic use of drones and who is counsel at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP.
2014 is the year America was struck by ‘Drone Fever’: we have a rapidly growing group of creative engineers, artists, scientists and businesspeople who want to use drones to make their work smarter and more efficient. Then we have a vocal group of people who protest drones over privacy concerns. And we have policy makers, who are trying, and failing, to sort it all out.
The responsibility of responding to privacy concerns has, by default, fallen on the Federal Aviation Administration, the group tasked with issuing regulations as to how commercial drones could operate in the U.S.
But the already bureaucratic FAA doesn’t have the expertise to solve privacy concerns, and has historically only been involved in the safety side of aviation.
”The FAA has no jurisdiction or inclination to worry about privacy,” Ellman said.
Because of so much outcry over privacy, the FAA has implemented legislation that has been flawed and outdated. Commercial use of drones is completely banned, unless you file for a Section 333 petition with the Federal Aviation Administration, which usually takes a neither speedy, nor efficient, 120-days to process from the time you file to when it’s approved.
Translation: the government makes it really hard to legally make money off flying your drone.
That’s a problem for people like me and the thousands of other Americans who own a drone (or will get one for Christmas this year) and want to use it to take pictures, or for real estate agents who want to show off large parcels of land, or for farmers who want to survey their crops. Japan has been using drones for crop-dusting since 1987.
For a country that places so much value on innovation, why does the U.S. allow policy that clearly impedes it?
Drones certainly bring privacy issues. One real estate agent used pictures taken by a drone to market a property without realizing they included images of a neighbor sunbathing, topless, in her backyard.
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