President Underscores Need for Drone Regulation

Robert Scoble

Robert Scoble

In remarks the day after a drone crashed on the White House lawn President Obama said regulations were needed for unmanned aircraft to ensure public safety and privacy.

“I’ve actually asked the FAA and a number of agencies to examine how are we managing this new technology because the drone that landed at the White House you buy at RadioShack,” Obama told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview aired Tuesday morning. The President noted Amazon’s plans to use drones to deliver packages and how useful unmanned aircraft could be to farmers managing crops and to conservationists “who want to take stock of wildlife.”

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“So there are a whole range of things we can do with it, but we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it,” he said. “So I’ve assigned some of the relevant agencies to start talking to stakeholders and figure out how we’re going to put an architecture in place that makes sure that these things aren’t dangerous and that they’re not violating people’s privacy.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is working on a draft rule for the operation of small commercial drones; more formally called unmanned aerial systems or UAS.

Obama also has reportedly asked the National Telecommunications and Information Administration within the Department of Commerce to tackle the issue of privacy.

“The president’s comments echo what we have been saying,” said Brian Wynne, president & CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). “The FAA needs to move forward with the rulemaking process immediately to allow industries from agriculture to oil and gas to realize the benefits of this technology.”

The UAS industry has the potential to create more than 70,000 jobs and $13.6 billion in economic impact in the three years after they are fully integrated into the national airspace, Wynne said in a written statement. “Until the FAA develops regulations for this technology, this industry and its commercial and economic benefits will remain grounded.”

Photos suggest that the drone that landed on the southeast lawn was a DJI Phantom, which is about a foot in diameter and weighs about 2 lbs. An employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency admitted flying and losing control of the device, according to an NGA statement. He was off-duty at the time the NGA said.