Future Tense

The FAA Won’t Release Drone Regulations Until 2017, Which Is Absurd and a Problem


Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

It feels like just yesterday that I was writing about Amazon’s impatience with the Federal Aviation Administration’s drone regulatory process. Oh right, that’s becuase it was yesterday. Today there’s bad news for Amazon and all the other companies and individuals that are waiting for the agency’s drone regulations: They’re not coming until 2017—at the earliest.

Originally targeted for September 2015, the Government Accountability Office now says that it will realistically take about two more years to finalize the FAA’s plan for drones. According to the Washington Post, the GAO’s director of civil aviation Gerald Dillingham said, “The consensus of opinion is the integration of unmanned systems will likely slip from the mandated deadline until 2017 or even later.” Even later??


FAA safety official Peggy Gilligan said at a congressional House panel Wednesday that there is a regulation proposal under executive review, but it will need a public comment period and months of revisions before it’s ready for prime time. Rep. Tom Massie, R-Ky., noted that the effort is moving forward on a “geological time scale.”

Drones pose significant safety risks, and it’s reassuring that the FAA is taking its regulatory job seriously, but this is ridiculous. While the agency tries to figure out what to do, everyone else is finding ways to move ahead with drone use on an individual or industry scale. If the FAA waits too long to implement regulations it will at best stifle innovation and at worst struggle to maintain authority. I am in awe of how impressively bad this situation is.