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New FAA Drone Rules Balance Safety and Innovation, Says CTA

Long in discussion, the FAA has finally announced the adoption of the small UAS rule, which will allow commercial drone operators to forego a manned aircraft pilot’s license.

“We’re pleased to see the FAA strike an appropriate balance of innovation and safety in its authorization for commercial drones and recognition of the value this rapidly-evolving technology offers,” said Douglas Johnson, vice president of technology policy at Consumer Technology Association (CTA), who served on the FAA’s Micro UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee and UAS Registration Task Force. “This is a critical milestone toward the safe integration of drones into the national airspace system–and a far better approach than the current exemption-based system–but clearly additional steps are needed such as addressing ‘beyond-line-of-sight’ operations, which will be a true game changer.

“From the fast delivery of emergency supplies to more efficient crop production and improved safety for our bridge and building maintenance crews, drones have the power to save lives and help millions of people across the country,” Johnson continued. “But the growing tangle of misaligned, conflicting rules at the state and local levels threatens to choke this nascent technology. To fully realize drones’ remarkable economic potential–creating jobs, maximizing efficiencies, lowering consumer costs and fueling the U.S. tech economy – state lawmakers and local officials must defer to federal rules. 

 “Integrating drone technology into our daily lives and work will offer life-altering innovations across a vast array of sectors – agriculture, transportation, security – and change our lives for the better. The arrival of these rules, and the ongoing industry and government cooperation they promise, will help ensure U.S. businesses and consumers enjoy all the benefits of drones at the lightning-fast speed of innovation,” he concluded.

According to CTA market research, sales of drones in the U.S. will top 2.8 million units in 2016–a 149 percent increase over last year’s total–and shipment revenues will reach $953 million, a 115 percent increase from 2015. CTA’s biannual U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts report also delineates expected U.S. drone sales for units above and below 250 grams, the FAA’s division for mandatory drone registration. Economic research from CTA says the U.S. will reach one million drone flights per day within the next 20 years, given the right regulatory environment.