For Drones, the Day of Regulation Is At Hand
Don’t know if you were paying attention, but this weekend everything changed. Kinda.
On Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced its long-anticipated regulations for the commercial use of drones and yes, whenever we speak (or write) on the subject of what we see as glorified toys delivering books, pizza, clothes, etc. to our homes, we do it tongue firmly planted in cheek as the theme from The Jetsons plays in our head.
But the fact is that those flying machines, once unloosed by regulation, will soon fundamentally change modern society in ways so far-reaching it’s impossible to speculate. After all, when cellphones were the size of bricks who could have guessed they’d be as valued as much for their properties as cameras and gaming devices as for telecommunications?
And another fact is, drones have already changed warfare and are on their way to doing the same to romance apparently: witness the fact that, last week, at least two women, including Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), were proposed to via drone.
Making speculation even more impossible—if that’s a thing—is the fact that these regulations amount to a first draft for the FAA to start a dialogue of what will eventually be needed. According to those who will have to do business by those rules, A LOT more is required.
Michael E. Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Coalition immediately reacted to the FAA’s requirement that drones not fly over people not involved in drone operations and that the aircraft must be flown by an observer on the ground who will always maintain visual contact with the drone, saying: “That means we really are not talking about unmanned aerial vehicles. We are talking about something that has to have a person. It defeats the whole purpose.”
Drobac’s organization incudes Amazon which has complained that overly burdensome FAA regulations has stunted the growth of its drone fleet, allowing the likes of Chinese rival Alibaba to take the lead. And who knows if the release of these first regulations has anything to do with Alibaba’s recent announcement that it will offer limited unmanned aerial deliveries in a concentrated area of Shanghai?
Whatever the timing of the regulations or what they look like in this first bloom, the fact is they will soon enough be tweaked and tailored to meet the needs of retailers/shippers/consumers and when they are, the drones will be out of the barn/hangar and they will never be going back again … R-oh, R-oh!