Is the FAA limiting drone innovation?


The aircraft regulatory agency’s delays on making rules for commercial drones is forcing businesses to wait. And wait.

In the winter of 2013, Scott Pham had finished teaching his fall semester on drone journalism—a new journalistic method of reporting and photographing stories by using unmanned aircraft—at the University of Missouri. While gearing up for the spring, the federal government sent a letter that disrupted his plans.

“The letter was quite vague,” Pham recalled. “It said something like—your actions ‘may be’ in violation of our regulations.”

The letter came from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)—the U.S. regulatory agency that ensures safe passage of manned and unmanned aircrafts.

In drones, Pham found the perfect reporting tool. One of his students flew a drone along the Missouri River and collected visual evidence on how oil and gas companies used the water for drilling operations without paying any money to the government.

“We chose…

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