Business Leaders Unsurprisingly Tepid About FAA’s New 624-Page Drone Rulebook


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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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The White House released a 624 page document with new rules and regulations Tuesday pertaining to “the Commercial and Scientific Use of Drones,” and business leaders are already responding.

“We simply don’t have the option of going through the traditional kind of five year time span in which we come up with regulatory outcomes and the standards,” Sean Cassidy, the director of strategic partnerships at Amazon Prime Air, the company’s conceptual drone-based delivery system, told The Washington Post in response to the new rules.

Some of the more fundamental operational rules include: minimum age requirement at 16-years-old, maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level, passing one of two types of knowledge-based tests, and understanding, reading, speaking and writing the English language.

Despite the length of the document, the rules are fairly narrow in scope. They do not seem to specifically develop any larger, more ambitious plans for the massive adoption of this technology that experts expect.

According to Federal Aviation Administration’s projections, “hobbyist UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] purchases may grow from 1.9 million in 2016 to as many as 4.3 million by 2020.” Many commercial industries want drone’s to fly above 400 feet for optimal service. Above-the-horizon operations were not directly addressed, despite the fact that this is a huge area of interest to the commercial realm.

“This is a step in the right direction,” but a big industry like “delivery, is definitely getting left out in the cold with these rules. All of the long-distance stuff will clearly still have to wait,” Logan Campbell, CEO of Aerotas, a UAS designing and manufacturing company, told The Verge.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta acknowledged that more work had to be done in a speech given in April.

“The FAA’s role is to set a framework for safety without unduly impeding innovation. We recognize that we cannot solve these types of challenges alone. We need the expertise and collaboration of key industry stakeholders,” said Huerta.

Some of the people who have great knowledge and expertise feel that innovation is being unduly impeded.

“Sales of UAS for commercial purposes are expected to grow from 600,000 in 2016 to 2.7 million by 2012,” according to the FAA projections. American businesses will have to wait for the next batch of piecemeal regulations to be published before they can lawfully operate their drones.

“The new FAA drone rules are disappointing and overly restrictive. The FAA ignored calls for less onerous regulations, dismissing arguments that advances in technology would mitigate many of the agency’s stated concerns,” Marc Scribner, the transportation policy expert at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writes via email.

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