The FAA Guidelines for commercial use of UAV, sUAS, and drones published on February 23, 2015 is proving to be as controversial as most of us figured it would be. As of the morning of April 4th, the FAA has received 2,554 comments and the comment period is open until April 24, 2015. You can see the Docket Folder Summary and view the comments and/or submit your own comments at Regulations.gov.
The pro- and anti- comments run the gamut of pre-formatted comments with plug and play spaces for your name, such as the template the Academy of Model Aeronautics has created, to the individually written comments by private individuals and companies, to the lawsuit filed against the FAA by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) arguing the Final Rule on Commercial UAV Use should include privacy protections.
So what does all that mean for getting the legal use of commercial drones up and running in the United States? Well, it doesn’t look good for things getting finalized any time soon. First, the comments to the proposed rule are going to slow down the federal process quite a bit. For any federal department that has issued a document for public comment, they have to evaluate every single comment before a final rule can be published. Because of that requirement, industry experts believe the analysis of comments and finalizing the rule could take 18 months or longer. So, be sure your comments are well thought out and not something like, “I like drones”, or worse, a rant about another person’s comment like this one. If I am working for the FAA, how do I respond to that comment and how much of my time is it going to waste?
EPIC’s lawsuit is a whole other issue. If the Washington DC federal appeals court judge doesn’t throw the lawsuit out, then this could add even more time to the FAA’s rule finalizing process. This could also prove problematic because the FAA’s Mission “..is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world”. Nothing about privacy in there.
Then there is word from Senator Cory Booker that he wants to introduce a bill that would establish temporary rules for experimental drone use that would make it easier for us to conduct commercial UAS flights until the FAA’s final ruling can be published. However, it has been two weeks since Booker’s office made this announcement and as of yet, no one has seen any legislation from him on this topic.
Any way you slice it, we are closer to getting rules that will allow us to “legally” operate UAS for commercial use. But how long that final ruling will take is debatable. However, we are still hoping to see some more relaxing of the current rules by later in 2015.
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