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Where seldom is heard a regulatory word - so where is the FAA?

Drones are either wonderful tools or the scourge of the Earth. They save lives in military operations and save money by running site inspections at remote oilfields. But they can also peek in bedroom windows if the real estate agency gets a little careless, and they can fly dangerously close to airliners, as US Airways discovered in March.

Still, the flexibility and increasing popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles bode well for the economy: 100,000 jobs and an $82 billion economic impact in 10 years -- if the Federal Aviation Administration could get its act together. These estimates come from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, by the way.

The FAA received its marching orders from Congress in 2012: Come up with regulations that will safely integrate UAVs into the country's friendly -- and commercial -- skies by 2015. A quick look at the calendar tells us ....

The process has not been easy. According to the FAA, no one should expect the integration to take place overnight. There will be no "countdown to drones"; there will be no checkered flag; there will be no Wicked Witch of the West "Fly, my pretties, fly!" moment. The agency will phase in drone operations over time.

That's not to say there hasn't been progress. Before the end of the year, the FAA should publish rules for commercial drones weighing less than 55 pounds, and Congress and the FAA have agreed that the agency will not be responsible for UAVs used "solely for hobby or recreational reasons." In a few cases, too, the FAA has approved operations for movie productions and sporting events.

The problem, really, is the type of aircraft at the center of a lawsuit involving the FAA and the man who, in 2011, decided to make his promotional video for the University of Virginia by flying a five-pound Styrofoam model airplane armed with a video camera all over the Charlottesville campus -- without first notifying the FAA. A fine and a couple of appeals followed.

And we'll circle back to how it all turned out when we get back from the Thanksgiving holiday.

Safe travels, everyone!

Source: Insurance Journal, "Safety Board Upholds FAA Regulation of Drones," Alan Levin, Nov. 18, 2014

Bloggers may take time off at the holidays, but the attorneys at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP stand ready to answer questions you may have about aviation law.

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