Strike the right balance on drone policy
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ CYRIL NDEGEYA
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — more commonly referred to as drones — are on the cusp of a major commercial trial that has the power to save thousands of lives. This pilot program isn’t taking place in the Bay Area or Boise or Boston.
Instead, it will take place 7,200 miles away — in Rwanda. UPS and Zipline are working on a project to use drones to deliver blood and (hopefully later) lifesaving medicines to villages in rural and other remote places. If successful, this technology has the power to transform how critical medicines are delivered in both the developing and developed world.
Even as Rwanda is exploring new possibilities, a second African nation — Nigeria — is erecting major barriers to the use of UAVs. Nigeria has imposed a $4,000 “drone tax” on operators. The government is also forcing companies to register and jump through legal and financial hoops to be eligible. Essentially, this will halt the vast majority of innovative UAV projects in the country.
These divergent approaches mirror a similar debate taking place here at home. How this debate is resolved will, in a very real sense, determine whether UAVs enable us to take a major leap in health and safety within our own borders.
For most, unmanned aerial systems are a transformative technology that has the power to save lives, improve health and safety and drive economic growth, while reducing costs. The possibilities are limited only by our imagination and, potentially, regulation. Now — with the FAA issuing the first nationwide drone regulations — getting the balance right is even more important.
The California National Guard uses a Predator drone to aid firefighters battling deadly wildfires up and down the state, and has used the same technology to help find missing persons. Continue reading the right balance on drone policy…