So it’s a great time of year – the world is slowly turning green again, students are headed back from Spring Break, and temperatures are starting the slow trend up towards Summer weather. All in all, a time for some to refresh and renew after a tough winter!  While I head off to the beach to do some recharging of my own, it makes me reflect a bit on where we are today in aviation.
And what did I think?

I thought “WOW, this is a really amazing time to be in this industry!”
Today, we’re creating aircraft that are beyond our wildest dreams, made with huge amounts of lightweight, composite materials, filled with banks of computers running Avionics Full-Duplex Switched Ethernet. Not too shabby when you consider that it’s only been 112 years since the Wright Brothers’ first flight.

Now, small and large Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are about to start zipping across our skies to do ALL KINDS of stuff: spray our crops, protect our borders, and…eventually… deliver pizzas or Amazon purchases to our front doors. 

While I am totally excited about the idea of what UAVs offer for advancing our society, I’m also concerned as to what we humans will do to “screw it up.” We’ve already seen where people tend to not think things through and do dumb things like fly UAVs near airports, buzz the neighbor’s house, fly them down city streets, etc. 
So this is where we DEFINITELY need someone to provide some guidance and framework. While we all know the government can move slowly, we really need to have some limits around the UAV growth or it could get out of hand. Unfortunately, I think we may be seeing pressure drive Washington into rule-making as opposed to logic and accountability.  
You may or may not have heard, but the FAA has already amended its requirements for commercial UAV operations to make it faster for folks to start flying UAVs. Here’s the announcement about the streamlining process from the FAA.

While it is easy to see that using these new tools will create big business and new sources of revenue, what is quietly NOT being talked about is who will police all this activity.  

Believe it or not, it isn’t the FAA.   

If a person calls in and reports someone operating a UAV recklessly, it will be the local police’s responsibility to investigate. Stop and think about the impact of that for just a minute.

No, seriously – THINK ABOUT THAT.

The great technical challenge before us is how do we track all these UAVs, how do we keep them from crashing into each other/other aircraft/fixed objects/etc., and how do we maintain accountability for what these machines are doing and who the responsible party is? The regulatory framework needs to account for these things, but I’m concerned that we’re rushing regulations so we can market commercial UAVs.

And then, of course, there’s the elephant in the room: how do you keep the government oversight from outright smothering this growing segment rather than building a responsible framework?

There are no easy answers here, but it sounds like a great business opportunity… if you have the risk tolerance to handle being on the cutting edge.