As Commercial Drones Approach the U.S. Market

  • Last week, during a congressional hearing on the commercial use of drones, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) deputy administrator Michael Whitaker said, "The rule will be in place within a year ... hopefully before June 17, 2016."  
  • Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president of global public policy said,  “We'd like to begin delivering to our customers as soon as it's approved … we will have [the technology] in place by the time any regulations are ready. We are working very quickly." 
  • Harley Geiger of the Center for Democracy and Technology said, “Here is a nightmare scenario for civil liberties: a network of law enforcement UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] with sensors capable of identifying and tracking individuals [that] monitors populated outdoor areas on a constant, pervasive basis for generalized public safety purposes. At the same time, commercial UAS platforms record footage of virtually anyone who steps out of her home, even if the individual remains on private property. This may seem an unlikely future to some. However, few existing laws would stand in the way, and the public does not yet trust the discretion of government or the UAS industry to prevent such scenarios from approaching reality,” 
  • Congressman Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky said, “The privacy aspect of drones does present some new challenges. Should there be a floor for operation of drones? Do you own the property an inch above your lawn? If you have a locked gate on your property and somebody climbs over the gate, your expectation is that they are violating your privacy. What if they fly over your gate?”


  • Commercial drones will likely have a positive impact in many areas of the economy including transportationmail deliveryagriculture and building inspection, and search and rescue efforts.
  • However, their use will also introduce privacy and safety issues.
  • The FAA will play an important role in setting some of the rules, but state and local governments, as well as civil litigation efforts will also shape the scope of appropriate drone use.
  • Bottom line – the commercial drone market is at an early stage of development and its growth will include both innovation and mistakes.