Opinion: Unmanned Aircraft Industry Can Self-Regulate:

Aviation Week & Space Technology | By: Michael J Dyment and Mark G. Mykityshyn | June 26 – July 09, 2017:

The rapid growth of the U.S. small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) market is being driven almost entirely by the private sector, with thousands of professionals and companies working to commercialize their ideas in a stunning array of drone applications.

The FAA projects 400,000 commercial drones will be flying within five years. Within 10 years, UAS will create more than 100,000 U.S. jobs, forecasts the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. This is a marketplace capable of creating new industries and jobs, catalyzing innovation, boosting U.S. competitiveness globally and generating billions of dollars in economic activity.

But without immediate intervention, those benefits could be lost. To keep pace with its own rapid innovation and accelerate economic growth, the drone sector must be free to experiment with new technologies and operations within a highly adaptable regulatory environment.

The combination of burdensome federal regulations, state and local restrictions and a lack of infrastructure for airspace access will impede the ability of the U.S. to lead the build-out of this burgeoning market. Without addressing these issues, large inflows of private-sector capital — the “jet fuel” needed to sustain the UAS sector’s explosive growth — may not materialize.

After an agonizingly slow start, the FAA is responding to the drone industry’s needs, but the demands from the market are accelerating and threaten to overwhelm an agency that can move only at the speed of government rulemaking.

UAS operators want permission to go beyond line of sight, to share airspace with manned aircraft and to fly in urban
environments. At the same time, government agencies outside the FAA want rules that protect not only safety but security and privacy. It is a puzzle of interlocking jurisdictions that consumes resources and makes responsive rulemaking even harden.

A new regulatory framework is needed immediately to provide solutions to these issues and encourage much greater and more timely private-sector investment.

If a self-regulatoiy organization (SRO) could take over the burden of drone regulation and oversight from the FAA, it could accelerate collaboration within the sector and establish a privately funded common infrastructure.

This SRO would have the resources and authority to work with state and local governments to develop and enforce a uniform framework satisfying both safety and privacy concerns.

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