Describe a variety of applications of drones, including useful and destructive ones. Discuss benefits and risks of drones. Discuss ways to deal with some of the risks. Describe and evaluate FAA regulation of drones. Compare with regulation of drones in other countries. Describe and evaluate various actual, proposed or potential regulations for drones.
Drones can be defined as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or simply flying robots, that allow us to safely view scenes from far away. Originally designed for military operations, they are now used for a wide variety of functions, including for viewing landscapes, homes, wildlife, and distant events (Islam, 2020). However, flying drones pose risks to flying carriers above them and pedestrians below, therefore they must be regulated. Recreational drones rose to popularity within the last 10 years, with few regulations because the technology was still so new as it was being commercially adopted. As instances of misuse of drones grew, regulations have developed alongside research and case studies. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the United States have categorised drones based on their usage and provided rules to suit. Countries across the world have now created regulatory frameworks for drones, following the model of the FAA. Drones are versatile flying objects which can be tailored for a variety of uses. Due to their benefits and risks, there are current, pending, and future regulations to improve the safety of drones especially with regards to the risks they can cause to civilians.
Regulations are defined as “the promulgation of an authoritative set of rules, accompanied by some mechanism […] for monitoring and promoting compliance with these rules” (Koop&Lodge, 2016). At the moment, pending regulations to capture owners’ IDs are in place to mitigate risks related to drones which may fly unsafely, or which are flying in unauthorised areas. This method will have a wireless signal (remote ID) which constantly identifies the ownership information of the drone. “Remote ID is the ability of a UAS in flight to provide identification information that can be received by other parties.” (FAA 2020 ). In some examples, a drone could be flying within our backyards and we have no way of knowing whom it belongs to: it could be the gated security firm which is doing routine checks, or it could be a suspicious neighbour prying inside of our homes. The pending regulation will reduce the ambiguity of unidentified drones hovering within personal spaces right now in America. Other countries regulate differently, in Trinidad and Tobago, for example, it is mandated by the Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) that a drone must be registered “if it is over 750 grams” (TTCAA 2020) but there is no automated signal which the government may use to capture drone information. Backlash has arisen against the proposed regulation in the US, on the grounds that it is unnecessarily expensive for flyers. Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), the world’s largest civilian drone manufacturer, has argued that “the benefits of remote ID are all for police and other authorities, not for drone users” and that approximately 20% of a drone’s value would be spent yearly to benefit only the FAA. For civilians, the benefit of this pending federal regulation is that it will reduce the risk of unaccounted for drone accidents in all areas of the United States, but there are no immediate FAA regulations for this drone identifying technology to be accessible by civilians yet, outside of those being advocated for by commercial manufacturers.
Another current drone regulation by the FAA states “Never fly over any person or moving vehicle” (FAA, 2020). Similarly in Trinidad the “CIVIL AVIATION [(NO. 19) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS] REGULATIONS, 2016” reiterate the same, and note that consent must be acquired in these instances. These current regulations ensure bystander safety. In football games, players may be watched by a drone hovering a few hundred feet above them with written permission to disclaim any uses and risks of the drone being present. In the event that the drone malfunctions or falls, the bystanders will have been informed of the risk of this ahead of the event and this can mitigate unfavourable outcomes. The benefit of these current regulations is that they increase the safety of using drones around people.
Future regulations will appear in new spaces as they emerge, such as product delivery by drones, which is not yet a widespread phenomenon. The technology in this area is often promoted by Amazon and suggests a future in which meals, mail, and other items can be delivered from a central point to your home. Risks involve many players within this industry crowding the airspace and therefore causing increased safety risks where drone sensors, remote ID’s and federal regulations are not enough to mitigate harm. Companies will be moving ahead to test these measures within the current laws once the technology is ready. In the United States, “Amazon added that while the Prime Air fleet isn’t ready to immediately deploy package deliveries at scale, it’s actively flying and testing the technology” (CNBC 2020). According to CNBC, Amazon has “broad” FAA approval to “safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers… beyond the visual line of sight” (ibid). The FAA said that at the moment, laws have not seen societal examples of misuse to then draft irrelevant laws that prohibit adverse outcomes.
In conclusion, drones bring many benefits, but also pose significant regulatory challenges. Most countries regulate their airspaces differently, or based on their own needs. For instance in the EU, drone regulation does not separate commercial drones from private drones in its restrictions. Its rules are based on the intended use of the drone, “This takes into account the operation and the conditions under which a drone is used, and not just the characteristics of the drone (Reger et al 2020). This is different from America, and Trinidad, where the primary focus of assessment is the drone itself. Drones have benefits, but they also pose tremendous risks to civilians. Regulations are required to ensure civilians’ privacy and safety when drones are being used. Specifically, more complex fly zone limitations, drone collision prevention measures, and backup mechanisms for drone falls must be considered for future regulations before significant damage is done.
Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). 2020. “Recreational Flyers”. Accessed October 15, 2020.
Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). 2020. “UAS Remote Identification”. Accessed October 15, 2020. https://www.faa.gov/uas/research_development/remote_id/
Islam, Muhammad Shahidul. 2020. “Introducing Drone Technology to Soccer Coaching”. International Journal of Sports Science and Physical Education. Vol. 5, No. 1, 2020, pp. 1-4. Accessed October 16, 2020. doi: 10.11648/j.ijsspe.20200501.11
Koop, Christel and Lodge, Martin. 2015. “What is regulation? An interdisciplinary concept analysis”. Regulation and Governance. Accessed October 15, 2020. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/62135/
Palmer, Annie. 2020. “Amazon wins FAA approval for Prime Air Delivery Fleet. CNBC, August 31, 2020. Accessed October 18, 2020 https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/31/amazon-prime-now-drone-delivery-fleet-gets-faa-approval.html
Reger, Matthias, Josef Bauerdick, and Heinz Bernhardt. 2018. “Drones in Agriculture: Current and future legal status in Germany, the EU, the USA and Japan”. Landtechnik 73(3), 2018. Accessed October 16, 2020. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Matthias_Reger/publication/326347667_Drones_in_Agriculture_Current_and_future_legal_status_in_Germany_the_EU_the_USA_and_Japan/links/5b473e8c45851519b4b13d67/Drones-in-Agriculture-Current-and-future-legal-status-in-Germany-the-EU-the-USA-and-Japan.pdf
Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA). 2020. “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)/Drones”. Accessed October 17, 2020. https://caa.gov.tt/unmanned-aircraft-systems-uas-drones/