Jeff Bezos isn't the only one who thinks drones will power tomorrow's businesses. But as more companies incorporate drone delivery or photography into their plans, it's still unclear what they're allowed to do.
"There's a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding in the [drone] user community," acknowledged FAA spokesman Les Dorr. The agency wants to clear up the confusion. So here's a helpful guide:
I have a brilliant idea for how drones can help my business. Am I good to go?
Not unless you're operating in the Arctic. So far, the only operation that has received the necessary Federal Aviation Administration clearance for commercial drone use is a company that conducts predrilling environmental surveys in the Arctic. So, probably not you.
Clearance for commercial operations "requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot, and operating approval," according to the FAA's Elizabeth Cory. The agency has been stingy with the operating approval so far, and that's unlikely to change until it gets more time to weigh concerns and troubleshoot potential problems.
But I just read that a court made drones legal now. What's up with that?
Yes, a National Transportation Safety Board judge ruled against the FAA earlier this month, essentially saying it doesn't have the authority to police the unmanned skies. But the agency appealed the following day, and you won't be flying anywhere until things get settled by the NTSB. "The appeal has the effect of staying the decision," Dorr said. "We were concerned that it could impact the safety of the nation's airspace."