The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is predicting there will be 2.5 million unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) -- also known as "drones" -- in use by the end of 2016. The FAA projects that number will triple to more than 7 million by 2020. With this many aircraft filling our skies, American cities are surly in for new challenges as to how they adapt to ever-expanding UAS operations. Issues such as safety, privacy, nuisance, and trespassing concerns surrounding UAS' are sure to be raised by both residents and business people. Smart civic leaders will start developing UAS policy now rather than shelving it for a later point down the road.
The National League of Cities (NLC) has already issued an issue brief, report, and sample legislation focusing upon what cities need to know about UAV use. The issue brief highlights the following three spheres of UAS activity that cities will be forced to deal with; (1) private use, (2) commercial use, and (3) public use. PRIVATE USE
Is voyeurism or harassment not the same if practiced via binoculars or the camera on a UAS? Cities will need to consider this issue and how it balances with the notion of privacy expectations versus camera in a public place (airspace is public). Leaders also ought to consider legislation surrounding use of drones over playgrounds, schools, places of worship, and public buildings and monuments.
The City of Miami Beach restricts the parking of commercial vehicles in certain areas during certain times to help aid with the flow of street traffic during peak times. Should similar restrictions potentially be placed on commercial drone use for their use in residential areas? Many citizens may object to the buzzing of a UAV hovering above their home on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
How do municipal-owned UAV's factor in to the mix? Is it appropriate for code enforcement officers to send drones to investigate complaints? What are the limits of local police powers with UAV's? The boundaries between acceptable use and invasion of privacy will need to be defined based on local community standards.
As TechCrunch correctly points out, the new FAA Part 107 rule allows substantial room for municipalities to develop legislation and regulations surrounding local drone use. However, it would be extremely short-sighted for civic leaders to view the UAS revolution as a detriment to their communities. Sure, there will be many challenges and spirited debates. However, savvy elected officials will embrace the potential UAV's bring to potentially create new jobs, stimulate commerce, and enhance the quality of life for their constituents.
For example, drones flying through the air delivering packages to neighborhood homes may sound scary to some residents. But if the tradeoff means less vehicles driving on surface streets jamming traffic, contributing to ground noise, and creating pollution -- isn't that a potentially good tradeoff?
The answers may not come easy, but they will surely come. Those communities that take a proactive stance toward accepting UAV's and incorporating their operation into commerce and lifestyle will be better served over the long term than those who resist the evolution that is upon them. For insight on how your community can develop a comprehensive UAS/UAV strategy, please contact Airborne Response or visit us at airborneresponse.com