State Legislators Await New FAA Drone Rules

Legislation and regulations relating to usage of unmanned aircrafts, or drones, has been introduced in almost every state since 2013 in an effort to keep up with quickly advancing technology and to get ahead of federal regulators who are taking their time to define guidelines. Drones are typically used by the military and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently bans commercial drone use, but the FAA is expected to draft new rules by November.

The majority of the bills introduced focus on safety and privacy issues in connection with law enforcement using the drones to conduct surveillance, but the issues have broadened as more and more industries want to take advantage of the devices.

Already, numerous companies are looking to use drones for everything from agriculture, package and food delivery, facility surveillance, filming and even real estate sales. Web based giants Google has been in on the technology for some time, using it across the globe as a tool to map towns and cities as part of its maps and earth GPS projects used by millions.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade association of unmanned aircraft and robotics companies, has urged the FAA to move quickly and allow exemptions for some industries. The group expects nearly 80 percent of commercial drones to eventually be used for agricultural purposes. Farmers use drones to monitor and collect data on the growth of their crops, fertilizer and pesticide effectiveness and even disease outbreak. On the other side of the issue, some cattle farmers are concerned with drones used to monitor their land for environmental issues.

To date, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee have all passed privacy related restrictions on the use of drones, likely to be one of the key issues that legislators will zero in on following the announcement of FAA rules. Similar bills are currently pending in 24 other states.

While states wait until the fall on the FAA’s draft rules, legislators are expected to work on their own proposals for the upcoming legislative biennium and companies will continue to engage and request exemptions.