Oxford research director predicts US will be at drone journalism forefront

In an interview publicizing the GEN News Summit 2013 in Paris, Oxford Research Director Robert Picard cited expected FAA regulations on unmanned aerial systems as the reason why the United States might be at the vanguard of drone journalism.

"The US will probably be the first," said Picard, who is leading a boot camp on drone journalism at the summit, according to GEN. "They are already starting to use it with the smaller based drones, where you can get a pretty good digital camera on them."

"The US is in the process of propagating these rules and will probably have them in place within the year."

The viability of drone journalism depends on the permissiveness and timeliness of drone regulations. However, many in the small UAS community are skeptical of the FAA's ability to integrate commercial drones in a timely manner.

While congress mandated in 2012 that the FAA create rules to integrate drones in the national airspace system by 2015, the government body missed legal deadlines leading up to UAS regulations. According to legislation, the FAA was required to designate by August six sites to test UAS integration. The FAA has not yet done so.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicles International (AUVSI), a major proponent of UAS integration, sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in August, warning about economic and technological consequences to the blown deadlines.

"A 2010 study by our organization found that the integration of UAS into national airspace could add 23,000 new jobs by 2025," wrote Michael Toscano, AUVSI president. "However, key to unlocking this potential and ensuring the U.S. remains a global leader in UAS technology is the establishment of the six FAA test sites around the country."

"I write today to request that the FAA open the site selection process without delay, so we can remain on the congressionally mandated schedule," Toscano wrote.

The UAS news website sUASnews.com has set up a counter that tracks the days since the test sites were to be announced. As of today, the FAA is overdue for selecting test sites by five months and 15 days.

Without regulation, there is no place for commercial drone aviation in the country. In a stark contrast , US' neighbor to the north, Canada, allows commercial drone use with liability insurance and a permit from Transport Canada. The turnover time for one permit is about four weeks.

Australia, New Zealand, and Japan also have more permissive UAS regulations than the United States.

Ian Hannah, a drone journalist and documentarian associated with DroneJournalism.org, lists more detailed information on regulations in Canada and the United states on his website, Avrobotics.ca. DroneJournalism.org will be including a section on regulations in coming months, as well.

Posted on January 31, 2013 .