Drones are pretty cool. (Don’t believe me? Just ask Martha Stewart.) Not only can they snap a selfie, deliver packages and walk a dogs, but they also have the power to dramatically change the way companies across a variety of different industries do business.
We're starting to see this play out across the globe. In Australia, drones drop off students' textbooks, in Japan they spray crops, and in the U.K. they shoot real-estate videos. And in the U.S.? Unfortunately, we are severely lagging behind in drone world. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a blanket ban on the commercial use of drones until it issues a comprehensive list of rules on operating the vehicles. (While those proposed rules are expected sometime this year, they probably won't go into effect until 2015, at the earliest.)
This plodding regulatory process has companies and "drone advocates" frustrated: They want drones and they want them now.
It appears the FAA is finally cracking. On Monday, the agency announced that it is considering exempting seven small companies in the television/film industry from the ban.
If approved, this could have huge implications, opening the door for companies in other industries to request exemptions for specific operations. Already, three additional industries -- agriculture, power line and pipeline inspection, and oil and gas flare stack inspection -- are considering asking for an exemption from the drone ban.
To ensure safety, the Motion Picture Association of America included certain standards, including total flight time will be less than 30 minutes, the flight height will be under 200 feet in altitude, the pilot will be certified, and the drone will weigh less than 55 pounds.
Drones are already being used by enterprising civilians to do just about everything, so it's about time we expanded their use from the novel to the actually useful.