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Differing Opinions On FAA's Approach To UAS

By Patrick C. Miller | October 09, 2014

There’s a column this week’s Washington Post by Larry Downes, a project director at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy, taking the Federal Aviation Administration to task for dragging its feet on implementing UAS regulations.

To be honest, I’ve had some of the same thoughts and concerns Downes expresses. Is the U.S. going to be left in the dust while other countries less constrained by the need to implement UAS regulations race ahead in research, development and commercialization? Each day, we learn of new technology developments in Asia and Europe.

My eyes were opened to the realities of the issue while speaking to some of the aerial video production companies which recently received exemptions from the FAA to fly UAVs for aerial shots for movies, television shows and commercials.

While a few thought the process was too long and too expensive and others felt they were still too restricted, none of them were unhappy with the FAA. There are a number of reasons for this.

One is that being able to fly legally while operating under FAA regulations intended to protect public privacy while addressing safety concerns separates them from hobbyists who buy amateur UAVs, slap cameras on them and declare themselves aerial videographers.

One aerial cinematographer said he had newfound admiration for the FAA after going through the process. He was impressed with the collaborative effort between the agency and the aerial video production companies that received exemptions.

“The national airspace over the United States is the busiest airspace on the planet by probably almost three fold from any other airspace anywhere else in the world,” said Chris Schuster, owner of Vortex Aerial. “They have a huge responsibility to the public to safeguard them and preserve their privacy.”

So, it’s happening, but it’s just not happening fast enough for some people. And while I understand concerns about the U.S. lagging behind other countries, there are valid reasons behind making sure we get it right the first time.

Because as enthusiastic as the private sector is about UAS technology and as captivated as the public is about its potential uses, all it will take is a few high-profile accidents and invasions of privacy to impede progress.