Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that are controlled by onboard computers or by remote control. The general public typically thinks of a drone as a military aircraft, but increasingly drones are being used for civic and commercial purposes. As the applications for drones grow, the legal and safety ramifications of drones need to be addressed.
Currently, the regulation of drones is technically under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which requires commercial drone operators to get a Certificate of Authorization in order to fly in U.S. airspace. However, the FAA’s control has been challenged in court. Commercial drone operators see a plethora of profitable business opportunities for drones, and they do not believe current Federal Regulations are relevant to and supportive of this developing technology.
Commercial and civic applications are virtually limitless, including such business operations as:
- Sports coverage/photography
- Filmmaking/commercial making
- Oil and gas exploration
- Search and rescue
- Real Estate surveying/photography
- Maritime and border patrol
- Delivery services
- News Coverage
- Police work and fire fighting
With the drone industry ready to explode, safety regulations are a major concern. The FAA has set a date of September, 2015 to establish guidelines for safe integration of drones into the U.S. airspace. The FAA is already hedging on that date because of the difficulty of making sure these unmanned commercial aircrafts do not interfere with piloted aircrafts or endanger civilians or property on the ground.
The current air traffic control system is not sophisticated or expansive enough to handle the potential drone traffic. Additionally rules and regulations need to be developed for the design and operation of remotely piloted aircrafts. Already there have been instances where drones have interfered with commercial and military air traffic. There have also been cases of drone crashes that have caused injury.
Finally, many questions surround privacy issues as tiny drones can navigate to very close proximities for surveillance and spying purposes. Because of the delay in regulations by the FAA, many states have drawn up and in some cases enacted legislation regarding private drone use. As drone safety and privacy issues arise, it is very likely that drone-related law suits will arise.
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