President Trump’s order to reduce regulations on small businesses has sparked concerns in the drone industry that seeks more federal rules in order to take flight.
The order Monday put a limit on each agency’s regulatory ability through the annual budget, and required that the cost of any new regulations be balanced through the repeal of at least two old regulations.
But flights of commercial drones have been restricted in airspace shared with passenger planes until the Federal Aviation Administration develops regulations to govern remote-controlled aircraft.
The FAA’s first comprehensive drone regulations took effect in August, allowing flights of drones weighing up to 55 pounds without the case-by-case review that was required previously. The generally approved flights can be up to 400 feet in the air in uncrowded areas during the day within sight of the pilot.
The FAA has been developing rules for flights over more people, flights with the aircraft farther away than the pilot can see and flights at night. These are provisions that the industry says are crucial for uses such as deliveries, and utilities and agriculture inspections.
Michael Drobac, director of the Small UAV Coalition and a senior counsel with Akin Gump, said the proposed rule for flying over people was had been expected in December, but that didn’t happen.
While many people complain about onerous regulations, Drobac said in some cases they are welcome to define what is and isn’t permitted.
“If you can’t operate over people, it dramatically limits the future for commercial drones in the U.S.,” Drobac said.
Federal departments and agencies have slowed their regulatory proposals as the Trump administration gets organized after his Jan. 20 inauguration. But Elaine Chao’s confirmation Tuesday as secretary of transportation opened the door to filling posts and reviewing regulatory proposals.
Brian Wynne, CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said the industry looks forward to collaborating with Chao on “a favorable policy environment for the unmanned systems industry and work to safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace.”
The group projects the industry could create 100,000 jobs and generate more than $82 billion in economy activity during the next 10 years.
“Sustained industry-government collaboration is key to advancing the innovation needed to create jobs and keep the U.S. at the forefront of this growing and exciting field,” Wynne said.