Citing "tangible economic benefits," the FAA has decided that the current prohibitions against commercial uses of drones in US skies can be lifted. As WSJ reports, Federal regulators said they are considering exempting a handful of companies working for the film and television industry with proposed rules for small drones are expected to be issued by the end of the year, though they aren't likely to become final until 2015 or later. While law-enforcement agencies already can rely on procedures to obtain FAA approval to fly some of the largest models in designated airspace, this shift by the FAA opens the door to the thousands of drones expected to plague US skies in the next few years.
Federal regulators said they are considering exempting a handful of companies working for the film and television industry from current prohibitions against commercial uses of drone aircraft in U.S. skies.
Monday's move by the Federal Aviation Administration doesn't immediately end those restrictions. But it signals that the agency, after months of controversy and pressure from drone proponents to allow some limited commercial flights, is looking to end the legal logjam by fairly quickly authorizing some independent cinematography companies and individuals to use drones.
If the exemptions are granted, such photo and video applications would have for the first time explicit FAA approval under specific conditions. The decision could open the door to other industry-by-industry exemptions—something drone manufacturers and users have been advocating for some time.
In its announcement, the FAA cited the "tangible economic benefits as the agency begins to address the demand for commercial [drone] operations." But the agency said all "associated safety issues must be carefully considered to make sure any hazards are appropriately mitigated" before the FAA gives the green light.
The FAA said the Motion Picture Association of America "facilitated the exemption requests on behalf of their membership."
Of course, there's always the privacy concerns...(via The Washington Times)
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, the leading trade group for the nation’s private-sector drone operators, estimated this year that the commercial drone industry will create more than 100,000 jobs and generate more than $82 billion in economic impact over the next 10 years — if the government moves quickly to establish workable operating regulations and safeguards.
The impending boom has raised concerns among privacy advocates about how and where drones might be used to collect data. The FAA is requiring future test sites to develop privacy plans and make them available to the public. The policy also requires test site operators to disclose how data will be obtained and used.
“Make no mistake about it, privacy is an extremely important issue and it is something that the public has a significant interest and concern over and we need to recognize as an industry that if we are going to take full advantage of the benefits that we are talking about for these technologies we need to be responsive to the public’s concerns about privacy,” Mr. Huerta said.
But then again "tangible economic benefits" will trump any of those concerns... we are sure.