It seems like a perfect time to get into the drone business.
With easy access to technology and patchy regulation, small
commercial drones already have been used to film box-office hits and market
expensive real estate.
Internet retailer Amazon is testing its sixth
generation of an unmanned aircraft system that could one day whisk packages to
customers within hours. With big corporations like FedEx and Domino's
Pizza flirting with the technology, law firms, trade groups and insurers
are lining up to capitalize on an expected economic gold mine.
There's only one catch: Commercial drones are illegal.
In a 2007 policy statement, the Federal Aviation
Administration essentially declared a ban on operating drones for
commercial purposes. The agency doubled down on that position in early April,
appealing an administrative order that tossed out the legal foundation for its
policy. The ruling came after a commercial drone user challenged an FAA fine
levied against him.
The ongoing case and mounting pressure to tap into the
potentially lucrative industry puts the FAA in a tough spot. The regulatory
body, responsible for keeping U.S. airspace safe, plans to propose a formal
rule for commercial drones by the end of the year. But regulations aren't
likely to be finalized until 2015 at the earliest, leaving some wondering
whether the FAA can catch up to an industry already half past go.
for the full article in the LA Times.