What Does This Mean for Drones?

Mathew Klug

On January 26th the Secret service reported an unknown private drone crash on the south lawn of the White House. Thankfully the drone had no harmful material “on board”, and the crash was ultimately deemed an accident. Although the drone crash was an innocent accident, many questions were raised regarding the safety of the Whitehouse. The secret service is in discussion regarding security details, seeing as recreational drones have become very accessible to the public. One can now buy small private drones for around $70 dollars. Despite current flying regulations, which entail that drones may not fly over private property such as the White House or other government buildings, the Secret Service is still on high alert. In regards to protecting the White House from an aerial attack, there are currently only large surface air missiles, which are too big and unconventional to shoot down a small drone over the White House. As the secret service seeks to protect the president and other governmental officials from drones, many changes may occur in private drone regulation.

As of now Amazon is lobbying to increase the fly room for drones. Their persistence is based on a futuristic idea regarding delivering packages via drones. Amazon is trying to persuade law makers to allow drones to fly over private land and in altitudes higher than 400 feet, which would then be considered National airspace. These proposals create issues when private property and the protection of citizens come into play. The law currently states that you cannot fly a drone within a 5 mile radius of an Airport, but even so the risk of drones unintentionally harming citizens is ever present. For example, in 2013 a drone fell on a New York City sidewalk, and almost killed an innocent pedestrian.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains that air safety is the number one priority when it comes to drone regulations. Based on this priority, they have dismissed ideas from both Amazon and Dominos regarding deliveries. The current policy states that a drone must stay within the flyer’s sight. The current policy would make for inefficient drone usage. The FAA administrator, Michael Huerta, recently stated that “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.”

As drones become more popular and more accessible for the average citizen, we are likely to see the FAA create new policies to fit the developing societal demands. It will be interesting to observe how the drone issue will play out, and to see if the FAA will budge on its strict laws.