The Federal Aviation Administration had three years to craft safety regulations that would govern the public use of drones, but could not get its act together to accomplish anything. The deadline came and went last week despite it being set by a 2012 law, attracting well-deserved criticism of the aviation watchdog on Capitol Hill. “Something is always better than nothing in the face of a known danger,” said Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) in a hearing. “Do something before someone loses their life on this.”
Each month, more than 100 pilots now report seeing drones while flying and sales of these radio-controlled flying devices are skyrocketing more and more every day. This is a staggering number of near-misses that makes it seem like a catastrophe is inevitable and only further shows just how staggeringly short-sighted the FAA has been in dragging its feet. “It is not if an accident will happen, it is when,” said Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA).
To the FAA’s credit, it is now testing new technology to identify drones flying around airports and it has developed educational programs to teach drone users what is and is not safe. But clear rules are needed. Too many drones are now being sold for the body to lack clear laws, and companies like Amazon and others that want to use the technology for business are forced to wait and see when — or if — regulations will be enacted before pushing forward with sales plans.
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