As FAA Drags Feet Europe , Japan & Others Attract Drone Industry Investment
” While the FAA worries about registering drones weighing more than a half-pound, the drone industry has given up waiting and is steadily moving forward with innovation and investment. They’re just doing it outside of the U.S.
Intel warned FAA regulators last year that harsh regulations might push them out of the U.S. to pursue the drone sector, saying that other countries were actively pursuing their business. That may happen; but even if Intel doesn’t shift its headquarters overseas, its drone dollars are already flowing across the border. The company holds investments in Hong Kong based drone manufacturer Yuneec and has just purchased the German company Ascending Technologies. Other drone investments include the US-based company Airware, creating operating systems for commercial drones – who, the WashingtonMonthly reports, has to actually sell most of its products overseas.
The US has lagged in creating a framework to support the drone industry, and it isn’t clear whether commercial regulations – whenever they are finalized – will help or harm the sector. But in the meantime, other regions are moving ahead to capture the wave of investment and innovation: Europe, Japan, and Brazil are forming regulations designed to attract and keep the drone business.
Europe has its share of tangled bureaucracies, and has suffered for years from disjointed approaches to financial and other legislation. But when it comes to the drone industry, they have something invaluable to offer: a united front. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) addressed the drone industry in it’s Vision 2020 statement (something like the FAA’s infamous integration roadmap.) The Vision 2020 statement says:
“…when national authorities have a lack of resources or expertise, they should be able to delegate some of their oversight functions to other authorities or to EASA, in order to make sure that no safety risks are overlooked. The Agency also proposes that, on a voluntary basis, Member States can decide that their State aircraft (excluding military) can be covered by EASA. The proposals also include the extension of the Agency’s scope of intervention in new domains, such as airport ground handling, RPAS (drones) and security, in order to cover in a comprehensive way all aviation safety related topics.”
This means that developing European countries without the expertise to deal with the commercial drone industry can rely on the EASA to craft policy – and a universal policy approach effectively means that commercial drones produced in one – or more than one – European country can be sold across Europe.
In addition to the benefits of teamwork, the EASA approach differs significantly from that of the FAA. Instead of regulating drones with a broad brush (all drones between .55 pounds and 55 pounds, for example) the EASA regulates drones according to risk category. Lightweight hobby drones that pose the lowest risk are lightly regulated: others are evaluated according to use and capabilities.
Japan has taken a different – but promising – approach to regulation. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised to slash drone regulations at a development conference in November, saying that drones were part of the 4th Industrial Revolution and critical to Japan’s economic future. Since then, four different sets of regulations have been passed concerning drones, highlighting one stunning difference between Japan’s drone legislation and that of the US: Japan moves quickly.”