Rules and Regulations on Commercial Use of Drones in the United States

By Scott Foden

Even though drones have recently came into the media scene, the use of drones have been going on for a lot more than the public eye has seen. Commercial and recreational drone usage have increased exponentially over the past decade causing drones stories to appear on the web but there is clear evidence that drones have been developing ever since the nineteenth century. Critics claim that the US government is stifling innovation in technology by putting bans on factors about commercial UAVs, but the FAA does plan on eventually letting UAVs be as common as the planes and helicopters people see everyday in society.

As of August 29, 2016, the FAA made drones eligible for commercial use with Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Registration stating the rules and regulations that come with the commercial use of drones. Even though these rules are supposed to cover everything about the commercial use of drones, dozens of questions still remain unanswered. Many laws created by the FAA still leave large room for interpretation and are difficult to be enforced by the FAA. An example of this is the rule stated by the FAA that states drones that are used for commercial use can not fly over people’s heads that are not involved in the use of the drone, but what actually defines flying over a citizen? Does that mean UAVs can fly a couple feet next to a citizen but can not fly hundreds of feet above a citizen? Also there are dozens of ways to get around being classified as using a drone for commercial use or recreational use. For example, the FAA states that using a drone to film and sell videos is classified as using the drone commercially, although people find ways around this. If the drone pilot gives the video for free, but edits the video, then the pilot can be payed for editing the video and not actually the video itself. It is these rules and regulations that can be interpreted in different ways that cause so much confusion with drone usage in America. Ultimately though, drones will be used more often because people can figure out ways around the rules and regulations. The FAA is portrayed has stopping the technological innovation of drones, yet the commercial drone industry is still projected to generate more than $182 billion for the U.S. economy and provide jobs for thousands of people over the next decade. It will be awhile before drones are relatively common, but the FAA is trying to incorporate drones into society the best way they find possible. 

A large issue about commercial drones in America is that the FAA does not have much to follow when it comes to how to incorporate commercial drones into society. The only subject that can be used with incorporating drones is how commercial planes were incorporated into society over the past century. The plane first came around the early twentieth century and took over fifty years to truly be integrated into American society so it is reasonable why drones might take longer than a decade. One key comparison that sparked both planes and drones are wars. World War I increased plane production to the point that after World War I, the US had hundreds of planes that had barely been used. Then, a couple of years after World War I, the US Government used planes to deliver mail through the air but private sectors did not have the right to deliver mail, similar to drones being used for government use but not for commercial use. By 1925, the government gave private sectors the opportunity to perform airmail service. As planes became more common, so did safety issues and crashes. The tip of the iceberg occurred in 1956 when two aircrafts collided over the Grand Canyon causing over a hundred deaths. This caused the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be formed in 1958 which made it so that there had to be an air traffic control system at all times, planes had to be certified before use, and airline training was required as well. The path to incorporating drones into society is similar to the development of airplanes into society, but the FAA finds it best to be involved in the innovation of drones so accidents like the Grand Canyon mid-air collision do not occur again.

One of the main facts that show commercial UAVs progressed in the same manner as planes is the fact that drones were mainly used in war at first. When the Vietnam War occurred, drones were deployed more than 3,400 times and in the 1990’s the Air Force started to attach guns to drones. When drones became more developed they became popular to society just like planes after both World Wars. The main issue with drones is the fact that the FAA does not want danger to occur like the danger of planes throughout the twentieth century. The FAA does claim that they plan on integrating UAVs into National Airspace System between 2015 and 2025, but they want to do it properly. Most people might initially think that drone accidents could not be too much of an issue compared to airplane crashes due to their size, but countless events have occurred that put the FAA at fear with the future of drones. Whether it be UAVs landing on the White House lawn, flying over the football stadiums, or injuring bystanders at events, these all put the FAA under pressure which is why they create so many rules for flying commercial UAVs.

After following the history of drones, the FAA, and the integration of commercial planes into society, it is clear why the FAA created the rules and regulations on commercial drones. To the naked eye, the rules and regulations the FAA created for commercial drones may depict that the FAA is stifling innovation, but they are working so that one day commercial drones will be successfully integrated into society.