trinity2492 via FlickrDon’t drone me, bro.Drones have been used for war, but they also have serious business applications in markets ranging from music videos to agriculture. However, the FAA currently bans all commercial use of drones pending regulatory rules scheduled to be published sometime in 2015.
Panelists and attendees of a SXSW panel discussion entitled “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Drone?” bemoaned these onerous rules and described them as choking off innovation.
Film production companies benefit from the use of camera-equipped drones. They can get angles and camera shots that are impossible for a helicopter, and a crashed drone is immensely less likely to result in serious injury or loss of life.
Some film production companies are using drones quietly in the hopes of not attracting FAA attention. One attendee described receiving a cease & desist letter from the FAA after using drones to film.
Agricultural companies use drones to analyse crops. Since this tends to be a service offered to farmers for free in order to market other products, it’s avoided FAA pressure so far. But with no clear rules in place, it remains a grey area.
The FAA is required under the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act to develop a regulatory framework for licensing of commercial drones by 2015, but hobbyists and entrepreneurs fear that the deadline may not be met, leaving them in legal limbo. Industry group AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) released a report claiming that every year the FAA delays integrating commercial drones into the US airspace costs the economy at potential $10 billion.
The drone industry is frightening to many because its military applications are what tends to make news, but drones have many nonthreatening commercial uses that are being held back by the FAA limitations. Entrepreneurs at SXSW and elsewhere are eager to deploy this technology.
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