CHICAGO — It’s ready to explode: America’s drone industry.
It has waited and waited for the FAA to green light this new industry. Countries like China and Canada, are far ahead of us.
Finally, just three days ago, the FAA responded.
But protecting good from bad is like trying to catch a falling star.
But we’ll be the first to admit it. It’s cool. Just watching a homemade drone fly 200 feet over the WGN-TV studios is amazing, especially when the little camera on board sends a perfect bird’s eye view of the city to the south.
It’s being flown by Ryan Twose and Justin Jackola who are serious hobbyists. Ryan set up the Chicago Chapter of International Drone Users and Justin is into video production.
The FAA, which controls airspace, just this past weekend, proposed new rules for smaller drones to keep hobbyists and others from interfering with planes and helicopters in the sky.
Examples; Fly under 500 feet, keep the drone in sight, fly only during the day and stay away from airports
So far, the FAA’s 195 page proposed rules keep a tight grip and tight lips about large-scale commercial use. As for the smaller drones, it requires operators pass its air safety test and security clearance.
The worry is that a few bad apples will misuse the technology to invade privacy or worse.
Brian Hearing worked for a government cyber-spy agency. Now he’s co-founder of a drone detection device to alert people that a drone is nearby. He uses acoustics to listen to the sound of the drone which he says has a distinct sound.
It could have come in handy for German chancellor Angela Merkel at a 2013 campaign event when she suffered a high profile scare. With her security standing by, a drone flew right in front of her.
Then, this past January, a drone crashed onto the White House lawn.
Drones are tricky. At 300, 400,500 feet in the air, you can barely hear it, let alone see it. And what no system has yet figured out is how to stop them if necessary. Even Hearing says, there is no silver bullet.
Jeffrey Antonelli is a drone hobbyist and incorporated his passion into his law practice
He’s trying to win commercial licenses from the FAA for his business clients. He thinks the benefits of drones far outweigh any potential risk.
But already, the technology has outpaced the brand new rules, which leads industry watchers to worry.
DePaul University transportation professor Joe Schwieterman wonders how easy it is to put a small amount of explosives on a drone to take down an airliner.
He says industry and technology always ends up beating out regulation.
The key for the future will be how to limit the bad — like using drones to transport drugs across the border – to encouraging the good – like bringing pizza to your doorstep.