Current Status of UAVs (Drones)
The FAA bans commercial use of drones no matter how seemingly benign. FAA officials say rules to address the special safety challenges associated with unmanned aircraft need to be in place before they can share the sky with manned aircraft. Unless FAA officials receive a complaint or chance upon a news story that mentions drone flights, they have little ability to find out about violations. The ban was further undercut this month when a federal judge dismissed the only fine the FAA has imposed on a commercial drone operator. The judge said the agency can’t enforce regulations that don’t exist. The FAA, which contends it controls access to the national air space, has appealed.
The drone industry and some members of Congress are worried the United States will be one of the last countries, rather than one of the first, to gain the economic benefits of the technology. “We don’t have the luxury of waiting another 20 years,” said Paul McDuffee, vice president of drone-maker Insitu of Bingen, Wash., a subsidiary of Boeing. “This industry is exploding. It’s getting to the point where it may end up happening with or without the FAA’s blessing.”
In Japan, the Yamaha Motor Company’s RMAX helicopter drones have been spraying crops for 20 years. The radio-controlled drones weighing 140 pounds are cheaper than hiring a plane and are able to more precisely apply fertilizers and pesticides. They fly closer to the ground and their backwash enables the spray to reach the underside of leaves. The helicopters went into use five years ago in South Korea and last year in Australia.
Jim Williams, head of the FAA’s drone office, said writing rules for the U.S. is more complex than other nations. The U.S. has far more air traffic than anywhere else and a greater variety of aircraft, from hot-air balloons and old-fashioned barnstormers to the most sophisticated airliners and military and business jets. At low altitudes, the concern is a small drone could collide with a helicopter or small plane flown by a recreational pilot. Source: AP