Last week we discussed companies that are surreptitiously gathering user data while simultaneously skirting privacy laws. These companies continue to operate with the hope that the federal government will not tighten privacy laws and ruin their businesses. Meanwhile, companies developing drone technology are being stifled by rules and regulations that are supposedly in place to protect the privacy of US citizens. These regulations are both ineffective and stifling what could be a thriving industry in the United States.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor points out that drones are already actively invading the privacy of US citizens despite the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) existing policies that prevent all but eight commercial drone operators from flying drones in the United States. Justice Sotomayor’s privacy concerns seem to be at least in part the product of unlicensed drone operators who are able to skirt the FAA regulations by, shall we say, flying under the radar. Clearly the technology that has the FAA concerned is already available and the regulations are not protecting citizens’ privacy.
One effect the FAA’s regulations are having is to put a stranglehold on the US drone industry. Not only is this preventing companies like Amazon and Google from developing what could be the next generation of logistics technology, it is forcing those companies to move their development efforts outside of the United States. Currently, the most successful US-based drone company does not make or sell drones in the US. In fact, export laws prevent drone technology from being exported outside the United States. This restriction severely hampers multinational corporations like Amazon and Google, and also prevents drone technology developers in the US from selling their products to foreign markets that do not have the same anti-drone FAA regulations.