The rapidly-growing use of drones in the United States is causing all levels of government to scramble to establish rules of use.
Drones are unmanned aircraft, sometimes as small as a lightweight toy, or as large as a military weapon used in overseas battles. The electronic technology has advanced quickly, while the cost has dropped dramatically.
In South Dakota and Lake County, drones are used in agricultural applications, aerial photography, law enforcement, education, entertainment and more. Some companies are testing package delivery by drones.
Safety and privacy issues are the top concerns of citizens, public officials and agencies. Yet we can imagine the confusion and noncompliance if every state, county and city created its own regulations on top of Federal Aviation Administration rules.
So we were glad to see there could soon be some coordination among all these entities when rules are established. The federal Office of Science and Technology Policy is working to link FAA rules with city, county and state requirements. Currently, the FAA has full authority over airspace at any altitude, although most everyone agrees a one-size-fits-all policy is not appropriate.
Ultimately, experts expect there to be five to 10 "model" regulatory outlines that could be adopted by local governments. They all would have approval of the FAA and be designed to prevent collisions among drones, manned aircraft, tall structures, power lines and so on.
Two accidents have occurred in the last month between a drone and a manned aircraft, one in New York and one near Quebec City in eastern Canada. There were no injuries in either accident.
We're glad to see coordination among rulemakers, and we urge them to adopt and communicate rules quickly to protect public safety.