President Trump launched a new program this month designed to significantly expand the testing of drones. According to the White House, the revised program will now include tests of drones over people, nighttime flights and flights out of sight of the operator.
The program was revisited in the hopes of addressing the current limitations of the national airspace system in regards to drone flights. Currently, most drones, including the small quadcopters, are treated as small aircraft if they are being used for commercial purposes. When in reality, applying aircraft rules to such a small vehicle is overkill most of the time. The problem is the laws just have not yet adapted to such rapidly changing technology. The Trump administrations is working to change that with this change.
The White House has not yet applied these changes across the board, but this new program will allow states and local governments to seek Federal Aviation Administration approval for testing and expanded use of drones.
White House adviser Michael Kratsios told reporters the “program will open the skies for delivery of life-saving medicines and commercial packages, inspections of critical infrastructure, support for emergency management operations…including beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights, nighttime operations, and flights over people.”.
These changes aren’t just important for states and government agencies. Companies like Amazon are eager to create a drone delivery system for their products, but current restrictions make that nearly impossible.
According to the Insurance Journal, the FAA estimates by 2021 the fleet of small hobbyist drones will more than triple and commercial drones will grow tenfold to about 442,000. With drone you growing that rapidly it’s important the the laws are changed to reflect the reality of the situation. This is something the Trump administration seems to be on board with. Remember, Trump spoke with drone executives back in June, saying that he wants “…to create new companies and lots of jobs… We’re going to give you the competitive advantage that you need.”.
While there is still a long way to go before laws surrounding drone use are solidified, this is a big step in the right direction. Hopefully this pilot program sees significant use over the next year.