The Future of Drones in the USA

Following our #drone experiment, we were contacted by Todd Medema, a tech entrepreneur in the USA and self confessed drone enthusiast.  He provides honest and down to earth technology reviews on Tech Gear Guide to help you make decisions about which bits of tech to buy.  

Todd wanted to share what is happening in the USA. Unlike in the UK, where the regulating body is the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority),  the airspace there is regulated by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). 

How Drones are Fighting to Change the World 

Early on a Monday morning in Washington D.C, a recreational Drone enthusiast lost control of his craft causing it to crash land in the front lawn of the White House. Uproar stirred across the political landscape and a familiar question was being asked on a larger podium than ever before: Are recreational drones safe and should we be regulating their use more strictly?

Of course the crash was completely harmless but it represents a question of safety that many are eager to answer.  How can we safely regulate these devices? Is the tech too advanced and potentially dangerous for the average untrained consumer? Should we provide licensing regulations and mandatory classes on proper use? The answer is unclear but what is clear is, like it or not, consumer drone use is here to stay.

Why we love them

Drones are a great hobby for people searching out new perspectives on the world around them. Sure they’re fun to fly around but for most, the real treasure lies within aerial videography. This exciting new hobby has captured the attention of millions with enthusiasts spending upwards of thousands in the pursuit of unbelievable videos.

The most popular means to create this stunning videography is to combine a professional grade drone with a GoPro camera. Simply turn it on and it’s practically impossible to not get stunning results.

Before drones, videos like these would not have been possible without renting a helicopter, which was of course virtually impossible for the average consumer.

Drone technology has opened the doors for an entirely new form of creativity and exploration.

Why they’re controversial 

There are some immediately obvious implications that appear when providing this kind of technology to anyone with a few spare bucks.  Having a floating video camera forces us to ask questions about our privacy we’ve never been faced with before.  Many fear that having a camera on a quadrocopter could lead to videos through our windows or even just watching us go about their daily lives on the street. No one likes to feel watched so regulating what and where we can record video seems inevitable.

In 2011 a drone videographer named Raphel Pirker was fined by the FAA to the tune of $10,000 for using a drone to film a promotional video for the University of Virgina.  Outraged, Raphel took the FAA to court and contested that the US government was operating under outdated laws from the 1980’s that were originally intended for model airplane use. On top of this, the ‘laws’ they were enforcing were not even enforceable by the government as they were merely guidelines and carry no force of law behind them.  The court ruled in favor of Mr. Pirker and dropped all charges against him.              

Now, as this ruling may seem advantageous for hobbyists across the globe, it’s sparked the FAA to begin a ‘roadmap’ to much more strict laws against recreational drone use. There are talks about putting regulations as strict as prohibiting flying at all without a license. Naturally, enthusiasts are not a fan of these propositions but luckily few of these laws will be able to even see the light of day before 2017, so many are working as hard as they can to keep these laws stifled before then.

The FAA claims that drones represent a risk for commercial airlines citing that over 200 cases have been reported in 2014 of drones getting too close to manned flights. They also cite potential terrorist hacking inceptions as a risk to all drone operators. While these are all good points of interest to consider, most enthusiasts believe some lax regulations involving clear flight patterns for commercial airlines and furthering technology into drone firewalls could prevent these issues.

The Future of Drones

The future of drones is extremely unclear for a multitude of reasons. The US government has closed off most airspace to commercial drone use, which has many potential investors in the technology waiting around for more clear regulations.  Speculators predict that if we can overcome the government’s regulations the drone industry could generate over 70,000 new jobs and $14 billion in economic activity in the United States alone. Where is all this money coming from?  From home delivery of goods to dusting crops for farmers, virtually hundreds of possibilities for revenue exist.

Just imagine the implications of having a cheap and easy to learn means of flying through the air.

  • In Southern California former Navy officers are using drones to inspect power lines.
  • Farmers are using drones to inspect their fields for dry soil or insect infestations.
  • has a very publicized plan to deliver packages straight to your doorstep as soon as 30 minutes after you click the order button on their site.

Things we never imagined can all become a reality simply depending on how our government decides to treat the future of drones in the eyes of the law.

For now, the future of drones is in their hands.

Let’s hope they treat it with the respect it deserves. 

For more reviews on the latest tech, check out Todd's blog