Drones are an unavoidable news topic right now. There are massive privacy concerns involved with the flight and use of these unmanned vehicles. There is also plenty of good that can come from UMVs in the private sector. Because of this, there are numerous groups, including the Federal Aviation Administration, that are dedicated to trying to figure out policies, rules, and procedures for drones of all types. Integrating drones into established American aviation policies and infrastructure will be challenging—but necessary.
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 took on the challenge of integrating drones into current FAA policy. They have a target date of September 2015 to complete the task. The main issue will be safety, but other issues will be addressed including the legal gray area that drones are currently operating in.
One of those legal issues is the flight of drones over private property and whether that will that be considered a violation of privacy. Manned commercial and private flights can currently fly over private property, but government and civilian drones may require a separate rule. It could even be seen as a violation of constitutional rights, depending on the purpose and capabilities of the drone.
Despite the potential for abuse, civilian drones are presenting an opportunity for some industries to run safer, more efficient operations. Some creative uses for UMVs are already in the works:
- Farmers monitoring crops, quickly responding to disease or other conditions
- Conductors easily completing mandated safety checks
- Detectives investigating crime scenes with no risk for contamination or interference
The FAA is expecting 30,000 operational drones by 2020, and the drone industry could be an $11.3 billion industry by 2021. There is no doubt more drones are coming to our airspace. Staying informed about the rules of drones will be important, especially for the general aviation industry.