According to reports, the FAA is set to publish rules governing the use of small UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or drones which would smother innovation and jeopardize the current uses that provide immense benefits to the general public.
The FAA rules reportedly will require full pilot training in a manned aircraft which can cost between $6,000 and 9,000, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Placing high-cost barriers to entry will only hurt innovation – both in the uses of UAVs and the development of safety features in the industry.
The FAA rules may also require that the UAV remain within “line of sight” of the operator. This requirement is particularly shortsighted as it would completely shut down one of the most promising benefits of UAVs – their ability to reach areas where humans cannot. There would be very little incentive to innovate around UAVs if the FAA place an arbitrary, regulatory tether on them. News organizations use drones to help with the reporting of news – to fly over war-torn areas, survey environmental hazards. UAVs can get to places where humans cannot or where it would take an extraordinary amount of time and effort not to mention the potential risk of harm. In fact, CNN and the Georgia Institute of Technology are studying the safe and effective use of UAVs for news-gathering.
If the news reports are correct, the FAA needs to reevaluate these potential regulations in order to allow for a world where we have safety and innovation. High-cost barriers and arbitrary tethers would stifle technological advances. At the same time, other countries with forward-looking approaches will take the lead in the UAV industry – with investments, jobs and innovation flowing out of America.