Industries Lobby Hard to Fly Their Drones as FAA Decision Looms

Sunday, November 30, 2014
Amazon delivery drone (photo: Amazon)

As early as next month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to publish regulations that have been years in the making on drones flying through American airspace for business or communications purposes.


Industries from farming to television news to retail have spent large sums of money to lobby the FAA, creating what’s come to be known as the “little drone lobby.”


“American ingenuity as it applies to drones is not waiting around for a notice and comment period,” David Whitestone, the chair of Holland & Knight, a Washington lobbying firm, told The Hill. “The potential use of drones is only accelerating in the commercial space. It’s accelerating faster than the regulatory process.”


Unlike the hulking, missile-laden drones used by the military, those developed for commercial use are much smaller. They can be used to help farmers tend to crops, gather footage for news reports and other tasks. There are already a few firms licensed to use drones in the production of movies and television programs.


Amazon has already invested in a fleet of small drones to develop a new way of delivering consumer goods to customers. That’s why the online giant hired lobbying powerhouse Akin Gump and paid the firm at least $120,000 to sway the FAA decision, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.


That money might not bring the desired results, however. The Wall Street Journal reports that the new rules will impose many restrictions on drones, requiring operators to have a pilot’s license and limit flights to daylight hours, below 400 feet and within sight of the person at the controls.


“I feel like there’s a colossal mess coming,” Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, an advocacy group for drone makers and innovators, told the Journal. The FAA’s rule will be “so divorced from the technology and the aspirations of this industry…that we’re going to see a loud rejection.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Drone Lobby Taking Flak from the FAA (by John Sugden, Center for Responsive Politics)

Drone Flights Face FAA Hit (by Jack Nicas and Andy Pasztor, Wall Street Journal)

Drone Lobby Takes Flight on K Street (by Megan R. Wilson, The Hill)

Hollywood Companies Win FAA Approval for First Commercial Use of Drones in U.S. (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Federal Government Clashes with Commercial Drone Industry (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


Robert Mitchell 9 years ago
Simple, effective, affordable regulations, proposed in a timely manner, that a small entrepreneur can comply with... is that asking too much? Will someone please explain the wisdom of using commercial vs recreational, as the sole basis of all their regulatory efforts?

Leave a comment