Raising concerns about privacy, America’s skies could be filled with thousands of drones by 2018 under a new plan unveiled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The plan would allow the operation of privately owned aerial drones in American airspace for commercial purposes — something currently banned.
Today, only government and hobbyists can operate drones in the US but the 100 page Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) roadmap unveiled by FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta will allow for a gradual introduction of privately owned unmanned aerial vehicles. If successful the plan could lead to the use of tens of thousands drones in the US by 2025, The Wall Street Journal reported.
What the Road Map Does
The roadmap is really a blueprint for the regulation of drones by the FAA. The regulation will allow the use of drones for a wide variety of purposes ranging from surveillance to delivering pizza.
Some details of the roadmap include:
- All drones will have to meet minimum standards created by the FAA.
- Drone operators will have to be certified or licensed by the FAA.
- Drone operators will have to pass a test similar to the one pilots take to get the license.
- Drones will have to follow instructions from Air Traffic Control.
- Drone operators will be legally responsible for what their craft do while in the air.
- Drones have to operate safely.
Commercial Drones will be tested at a number of sites around the U.S. The location of the sites hasn’t been determined yet but Huerta mentioned six such sites. The agency has received 25 applications for these sites from 24 states.
Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said the FAA “has taken an important step by recognizing that the government must address privacy as drone use expands.”
“Requiring public disclosures of data use and retention policies, as well as mandating audits, are needed and welcome safeguards,” Calabrese said. “However, it’s crucial that as we move forward with drone use, those procedural protections are followed by concrete restrictions on how data from drones can be used and how long it can be stored. Congress must also weigh in on areas outside of the FAA’s authority, such as use by law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, which have the ability to use drones for invasive surveillance that must be kept in check.”
Possible commercial uses for drones include:
- Disaster response.
- Coverage of sports events for TV.
- Cargo transport.
- Aerial Mapping.
- Commercial photography.
- Search and Rescue.
- Monitoring infrastructure.
Drones could also become big business. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems – a drone industry trade association – predicts that Drones could become an $82 billion business employing 100,000 people within 10 years. It looks like drones are about to become part of our lives whether we want them or not.