Taming the Commercial and Recreational Drone Markets
- Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the creation of a task force to develop recommendations for a registration process for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) aka “drones” and said, “Pilot sightings of UAS doubled between 2014 and 2015. The reports ranged from incidents at major sporting events and flights near manned aircraft, to interference with wildfire operations.”
- FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said “These reports signal a troubling trend … registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly. When they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences.”
- Transportation Secretary AnthonY Foxx said “Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system … It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.” Note: Between April 2014 and August 2015, the FAA said that passenger planes have reported 891 violations of FAA rules by drone operators.
- Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said “The FAA’s decision to require registration is a key step, but the agency should have additional authorities to require safety features and set rules on when and where drones can fly. Congress must pass the Consumer Drone Safety Act to ensure drone safety is addressed in a comprehensive way.”
- Note: 1) Feinstein, along with Senator Charles Schumer of New York, is sponsoring of the Consumer Drone Safety Act and 2) California has the highest number of FAA drone violations with 189 sightings.
- Regarding the drone taskforce – Given the increasing number of violations, there is a great need for education and oversight, to manage the pace of market growth as commercial firms and do-it-yourself (DIY) players introduce new products.
- Regarding Feinstein’s efforts – Because of the significant use of drones in California, the state will likely be a legal trendsetter in the drone market. For example, the state recently passed a law addressing invasion of privacy when a drone knowingly enters the airspace above another person.
- Bottom line – Drones, robots and hybrid devices will create 1) new market opportunities, 2) novel legal disputes and 3) regulatory oversight challenges.