Lightweight commercial drone aircraft are poised to transform industries from online retail to film and photography to farming and even Internetsignal delivery. But delays in federal rule-making mean that U.S. businessesare stuck in limbo, unable to move forward with this exciting technology. While the rest of the world is putting these robots-on-wings to work in life-altering ways, U.S. policymakers continue to stifle innovation and economic growth by equivocating on the merits of drones.
In 2007, the Federal Aviation Administration banned commercial drone use under the same rules that govern the use of model aircraft. Recently, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the intelligence committee,called for hefty regulation of drones. While the FAA has approved drones for use by hobbyists, as well as for one company to use them in remote parts of Alaska, it’s now time for the agency to consider whether more businesses should be allowed to fly them, given concerns about privacy and safety. Such issues have a real place in this debate, but continuing to keep commercial drones grounded is not the right answer.