Creating an Environment of Permissionless Innovation for Unmanned Aircraft

As the Senate committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship considers how best to prepare for a future in which drones create new opportunities for small business, they should impletment a light-touch regulatory environment for commercial drones. As with the Internet in 1989, commercial use of drones is highly restricted, but will soon become generally available. And as with the Internet in 1989, we have only the vaguest idea of how drones will be used in daily life in the future.

Given that drones pose little risk to the airspace, the FAA’s proposed drone regulations do not adequately protect the need for experimentation and innovation. For example, in its proposed regulations, the FAA does not allow drones to carry external loads. This means that operators may be prohibited from delivering items that do not fit within the drone’s fuselage.

The FAA will not allow drones to operate outside the hours of sunrise and sunset. There are numerous possible drone applications that might benefit from nighttime operation. For example, consider the use of thermal imaging in a search-and-rescue operation. This would be more useful at night, when the ambient temperature is most different from human body temperature.

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