The buzz on drones is getting louder.
More than 700,000 drones are expected to be sold nationwide in 2015, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Drones are a hot holiday gift item this year. Nearly 400 drone-related products and projects are currently listed in active crowdfunding campaigns at Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com.
Even the winner of the most recent Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award was a drone — the ultraportable Sprite, made by Ascent AeroSystems.
Hovering over all of this drone proliferation, inevitably, are potential regulations. In November, the New York Times reported that the Federal Aviation Administration released a list of recommendations for how to better monitor recreational use of the machines. Under the proposal, most drone owners would have to register their drones with the federal government, which would place the information in a national database, the first such requirements. New York Times: “The recommendations, from a task force created by the agency, would be the biggest step yet by the government to deal with the proliferation of recreational drones, which are usually used for harmless purposes but have also been tools for mischief and serious wrongdoing, and pose a risk to airborne jets.”
The F.A.A. is expected to approve the bulk of the recommendations later this month.
One predicted outcome from these recommendations, the Harvard Business Review theorizes in a recent article, is the establishment of “drone lanes.” As the magazine reports, talks will continue in 2016 about whether or not the airspace should be regulated for hobbyists and commercial drone pilots. This “will prompt difficult conversations between technologists, researchers, drone manufacturers, businesses and the aviation industry, since each has an economic stake in the future of unmanned vehicles.” Amy Webb, the article’s author, predicts the sky will soon be divided: “Hobbyist pilots will have access to operate UMVs in the 200 and below space, while businesses and commercial pilots will gain exclusive access to 200-400 feet zone overhead.”
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