As drone technologies have improved in recent years, so has the debate on Capitol Hill about how drones should and should not be regulated. While drones have been used extensively for various military applications for numerous years, the commercial and private use of drones has been a slow growth market segment. As such, the last time Congress reviewed legislation and regulation for non-military drones was in 2012.
However, that is about to change, with hundreds of thousands of drones being used by hobbyists and major companies, like Google and Amazon, who want to use the drones for automated package delivery systems. The objective of Congress is to provide guidance to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and its establishment of drone policies.
There are Washington DC lobbyists and advocates split on two sides of influencing regulations and rules for drone usage. On one side are the hobbyists and personal users, along with corporations, who want to see a broader range of reduced regulations. On the other side are proponents for tighter drone rules, increased safety, and control over their use.
Earlier this year there was much interest and attention placed on the re-authorization of a bill to enable the FAA funding and guidance to create regulations for commercialized drone testing and testing sites. As the FAA continues to explore its approach and what regulations it will eventually put into effect for drones, there have been an increase in lobbyist activities on Capitol Hill, with various groups meeting with the White House, FAA officials, and NASA officials.
Among one of the more recent changes enacted by the FAA is mandatory drone registration for recreational drone owners, which took effect back in December 2015. This change was implemented to help address concerns about safety and privacy. For commercial operations, the FAA currently reviews and authorizes business usage of drones on a case-by-case basis. It is hoped that, once the FAA establishes new regulations and rules, it will make it easier for businesses and will eliminate the current procedures.
Both Google and Amazon have been rather active with their lobbying to attempt to speed up the process. These companies understand any regulation will probably be created in stages, as they expect the FAA to want more research and experimental testing to be completed, prior to developing federal regulation on the open use of drones by businesses for commercial delivery purposes.
Some drone manufacturers, along with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), are among those advocacy and lobbyist groups pushing for tighter controls and increased safety features in drones. ALPA would like to see legislation requiring registration when a drone is purchased in a retail store or online. In addition, those in support of increased safety features would like to see a bill introduced which would require manufacturers to build drones with avoidance and sensing technologies to help keep drones away from nearby people and objects.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of lobbying efforts, and what regulations and rules the FAA does create in the future. If your business wants its voice heard in Washington about its position on drones or other important issues, with the representation you deserve, call Lobbyit now at 202-587-2736 to help you get the most out of your elected officials and government agencies.