“The rules should be a coordinated effort by all the stakeholders, but until we get the tech industry to sit down and participate, we are going to have to go at it alone.”
As drones multiply in number and category, cities and states want to set boundaries. But drone manufacturers and associations this legislative session boosted their politicking, successfully beating back several bills they said would create a patchwork of laws that vary by state and hinder innovation.
“The rules should be clear,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat. “The rules should be fair. The rules should be a coordinated effort by all the stakeholders, but until we get the tech industry to sit down and participate, we are going to have to go at it alone.”
“We want to solve problems and address concerns, but to do it in a way that is constantly clear across the country,” said Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and legal affairs for DJI Technology Co., the world’s largest drone maker. “Otherwise, it will be too confusing for commercial users and consumers to understand what the rules are when they travel from place to place.”
Industry opposition this year has helped block two sweeping pieces of California legislation: One would have outlined drone regulations for law enforcement and another sought to drastically reduce the space in which the devices can be flown near power lines and critical infrastructure, private property and parklands and wildlife refuges.
Opponents of the bill contended it would have required drone operators to obtain insurance, though there is no data that accurately reflects the danger the drones pose. And they said it created “inconsistencies and contradictions” that undermined federal law regarding aircraft operations.
I get that it’s a job for the lobbyists, but I am not sure how viable an approach this really is.
The notion of a consistent set of national rules is already dead. The FAA owns the air but all drone operations start and end on the ground. And while California is the bellwether and one of the most important markets for drone sales, 44 of the other 49 have already considered some kind of regulation.
The notion that there shouldn’t be an insurance requirement because nothing bad has happened yet, asks for the same leap of faith we are hearing about on the MicroARC. And despite Flirtey delivering a Slurpee for 7-11, drone delivery is a long way off. It will take UTM to be completed, certified and deployed along with FAA approval of autonomous (unattended) flight to begin to make this economically viable. At which point the cities and states will be heard from again.
But the biggest issue the industry faces is consumer acceptance.
Lobbying resulting in this type of press coverage does nothing to create goodwill.