The biggest news of 2016 for the commercial drone market was surely the finalization of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Part 107 regulations. And even better news for the commercial drone market was that the Part 107 regulations are not as onerous as they could have been! In 2017, we will surely see the regulatory framework grow even further. And, as of December 16, 2016, the FAA has granted 221 Part 107 waivers—most of which are waivers for night operations. Further, the FAA has proposed a new rule for performance-based standards and means-of-compliance for operation of drones over people who are not directly participating in the drone operation. The FAA sent the proposed rule to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). We will likely see more buzz about this proposed rule in 2017.
This year also brought better video technologies to the commercial drone market; however, better images and video resolution are still needed. Companies like DJI continue to up the bar when it comes to more powerful cameras on drones, but in 2017 drone companies will continue to implement new technologies and more powerful cameras.
This year, Amazon Prime Air made its first package delivery in England. While package delivery in the U.S. still faces regulatory and safety hurdles, the commercial drone market will definitely continue to conduct tests and build upon its research to implement safe drone deliveries.
2016 marked the one year anniversary of the FAA’s drone registration system –and over 600,00 registrations. And we are now up to six unmanned aerial system (UAS) test sites: North Dakota Department of Commerce; State of Nevada; University of Alaska Fairbanks; Texas A&M University Corpus Christi; Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University; and Griffiss International Airport (NY).
The FAA’s Focus Area Pathfinder initiative, comprised of three industry partners, is in full swing, exploring incremental expansion of UAS operations in the national airspace. In 2017, the group will continue to focus on visual line of sight operations over people, extended visual line of sight operations in rural areas, and beyond visual line of sight operations.
While we have seen a lot of progress in the drone market this year, perhaps 2017 will bring a more expansive education initiative for the public; the establishment of a micro UAS rule; and (hopefully) some more guidance on privacy related to not only where and when we operate drones but how we can and cannot use the data collected by drones. Of course, the biggest goal of the drone market in 2017 will be to continue to expand technological developments so that the uses of drones can continue to expand and increase efficiency while cutting costs in industries across the board. Safe and happy flying in 2017.