In May 2000 the US government switched off encryption (known as selective availability) of signals from GPS satellites. The move spawned increased civilian use of GPS and an accelerated market for GPS enabled devices, with the associated jobs and revenues.
Are we approaching a similar watershed moment for civilian drones? The countries or policy regions that tailor their regulation to allow for widespread use of civilian drones are likely to see most of the benefits from a rapidly evolving technology. The big benefit that is up for grabs is giving rise to a global nexus of civilian drone technology bringing with it knowledge, innovation, manufacturing and exports.
An article in The Economist, Game of drones, argues that the Federal Aviation Authority’s (FAA) lack of regulation that incorporates civilian use of drones in the country’s airspace may hobble a potential growth industry for the US. While there are plans to incorporate specific rules for use of civilian aircraft weighing under 25 kg by 2014/15 this may be late compared to other jurisdictions, and the risk is that the rules will prove too restrictive. The other risk to the development of a growth industry in the US is that while regulation may be molded attractively at the federal level, state and local legislation may impede flight due to privacy concerns. The article mentions that Amazon had to shoot their drone delivery promotion video abroad to be sure not to violate any regulation.