Thursday, April 17, 2014

Drone regulation

The commercial and non-military use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, is prompting many safety and privacy concerns.  In terms of the safety of airways, progress toward regulation is slowly being made at the federal level.  When Congress passed the "FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012", P.L. 112-95,  it mandated that the FAA come up with a "comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the nation airspace system" within 3 years of the passage of the Act.  The FAA on Dec. 30, 2013 designated six locations around the country which will test the various uses of commercial UAS to help determine the best ways to regulate them.  Among these chosen test sites is the Joint Base Cape Cod (formerly the Otis Air Force Base) in conjunction with the Griffiss International Airport in upstate New York.

Legislation is also moving forward to address the privacy concerns that many have with unregulated use of drones.  In Massachusetts, Sen. Robert Hedlund has sponsored a bill, S.1664, that addresses such issues as the need to obtain warrants before using drones for searches and a requirement that drone users get the written consent of those affected before disclosure of any data.  The ACLU has a review of the status of drone legislation in other states.  At the federal level, Senator Edward Markey is creating legislation that deals with similar privacy issues.