Sunday, January 25, 2015

Killing a breakthrough opportunity?

"... [FAA] appears keen to protect special interests, including established aircraft manufacturers and pilot unions."

States The World in 2015 from the Economist in the article "A bumpy take-off".

Consumer focused, and at times consumer driven invention to innovation has been the driver for bigger breakthroughs.  Automation and controlled automation in flight, and what I would call micro-flyers, domain of the enthusiasts to begin with has opened up a new arena of opportunity for application of technology.

"Drones also bring improvements and cost-cutting to film-making, news-gathering, search and rescue, forensic photography, firefighting, archaeological surveying, smokestack inspection and the monitoring of pipelines, volcanoes, pollution and wildlife. The benefits to an economy like America’s could be worth $27m a day, says the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) in Arlington, Virginia."

Yet, one way leap frog opportunities have been thwarted is regulation, which is overbearing and at times non-sensical.  To highlight the extent of it, the article states:

"… in June the FAA issued a “tremendously rigid” policy interpretation that even expands the definition of aircraft it has the authority to regulate to include boomerangs, frisbees and hand-tossed balsa gliders, says Paul Voss, an engineering professor at Smith College in Massachusetts."

Will the growth of this sector emerge outside of the US due to the constraints being put upon the creativity?  I will be watching these developments closely.  It reminds me of the onerous regulations the Nuclear Regulatory Commission put in place making it cost prohibitive to do anything nuclear in the USA.  For now:

"All this suggests that the FAA’s future rules will not bring America economic benefits on the scale some countries are starting to see, says Brendan Schulman of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel. In August the New York law firm filed three suits against the FAA for regulatory over-reach. The way things are heading, he says, the FAA might require a drone to be flown by two licensed operators with medical certificates who keep it within sight. This would be costly, and might outlaw flights around a leafy tree. Until the autumn of 2015 the issue will remain, unlike the drones themselves, up in the air."

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