Deadly Drones? Why FAA Regulations Miss the Mark on Drone Safety

85 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2019 Last revised: 15 Sep 2019

See all articles by Steve Calandrillo

Steve Calandrillo

University of Washington - School of Law

Jason Oh

University of Washington School of Law

Aristides J. Webb

The Stratford Company, LLC

Date Written: August 12, 2019

Abstract

A rapidly growing commercial drone industry has prompted the introduction of numerous regulations governing American airspace. Congress has tasked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with “developing plans for the use of the navigable airspace to ensure the safety of aircraft and the efficient use” of American skies. While well-intended, the FAA has departed from Congressional will by imposing an excessive regulatory scheme that threatens to stifle drone technology and innovation. In fact, many FAA regulations fail to address the very problem they seek to fix, namely the safety of our airspace. The unfortunate result is that myriad scientific and pragmatic applications of cutting-edge drone technology have been stalled or thwarted entirely inside the U.S., forcing innovation efforts to move abroad.

FAA regulations must be dramatically scaled back and reformed to reflect the countless benefits and comparatively minimal risks associated with drone technology. Nonsensical rules such as the one requiring any person over the age of 13 to register her recreational “Christmas toy” drones are excessive as a response to public safety in light of the fact that many other far more prominent threats to public safety (e.g., firearms) have no similar registration requirements. More pragmatically, the line of sight regulations that prevent pilots from using vision-enhancing devices such as first-person view technology needlessly restrict the commercial applications of drones, including long distance package delivery. Finally, while the FAA and various other regulatory bodies currently control the spaces in which drones can be legally flown, drone manufacturers are far better equipped to accomplish this goal themselves through the incorporation of geofencing technology (which directly prevents drones from flying into restricted areas like airports). In sum, American laws and regulations governing the flight of commercial drones are overly restrictive, unnecessarily stifle valuable innovation, and must be revised to ensure that the true potential of drone technology can be realized.

Keywords: drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, remotely controlled aircraft, Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, administrative regulation, aviation, model aircraft, geofencing, first person view, FPV, line of sight

Suggested Citation

Calandrillo, Steve and Oh, Jason and Webb, Aristides J., Deadly Drones? Why FAA Regulations Miss the Mark on Drone Safety (August 12, 2019). Stanford Technology Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3444643

Steve Calandrillo (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98195-3020
United States
206-685-2403 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: https://www.law.washington.edu/directory/profile.aspx?ID=123

Jason Oh

University of Washington School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States

Aristides J. Webb

The Stratford Company, LLC ( email )

Seattle, WA

HOME PAGE: http://www.thestratfordcompany.com/

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