ntrepreneurs in the fledgling drone industry breathed a sigh of relief Monday after federal regulators finally issued proposed rules for flying the small robotic flying machines — a plan not as tough on commercial users as many had feared.
“It’s exciting,” said Adam Gibson, marketing director for Ctrl.me, a 3-year-old start-up in Venice Beach that sells and repairs drones. “It’s a step forward.”
The rules proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration could ultimately put thousands more drones in the sky, with some of the most promising uses in spraying crops and inspecting hard-to-reach structures like cell towers, pipelines and bridges.
Not all companies were pleased with the plan’s specifics, however. Internet giant Amazon, for example, would not be allowed to deliver merchandise by drone — a highly touted plan that the company proposed last year. The rules would prohibit the aerial deliveries by requiring operators to keep their drones within sight and bar them from dropping objects.
At the same time, some elected officials said the rules — which aren’t expected to take effect before 2017 — don’t go far enough.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) pointed to a Feb. 8 report by pilots of a Southwest Airlines plane approaching Los Angeles International Airport.
“The near miss, just days ago, between a drone and a commercial airliner on approach to LAX at an altitude of 4,000 feet demonstrates the risk that unsafe drone use, including by recreational users, poses to public safety,” Feinstein said in a statement. “I believe something must be done to protect the public before it is too late, and I intend to introduce legislation soon to do just that.”
The industry has been waiting for years for the rules. Currently, most commercial drone operators are banned from flying until the new rules are finalized, which may take two more years.