Want A Drone? WYSO's Lewis Wallace Talks Regulations With Maurice McDonald

Dec 19, 2013

A quadcopter ready for flight at SelectTech Geospatial in Springfield.
Credit Lewis Wallace / WYSO

Right now, if you can spare the cash, you can buy your own drone—or unmanned aerial vehicle, as the industry likes to call them. You can buy local, too, because the Dayton area is trying to shape itself as a hub for the growing commercial drone industry. In a couple years local companies would like to be using them for agricultural purposes, emergency response, entertainment, even surveillance.

"The FAA really needs to address the procedures and policies associated with flying these systems," says Maurice McDonald at the Dayton Development Coalition.

While it’s perfectly legal to fly a drone as a private hobby, companies are much more restricted. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has yet to put out rules for commercial drones in U.S. air space, and right now the Miami Valley is in the running to become one of six FAA test sites around the country. The announcement on which regions will take on the test site designation is due out any day.

McDonald says the economic benefits to the area could be great, but he stresses the FAA still needs to work out a lot of details about permissible uses of drones in U.S. air space. For example, new regulation will need to address privacy concerns.

"There's rules today for privacy that actually apply whether it is an unmanned aircraft or a manned aircraft," he says. The same rules apply to unmanned aircraft, although he does say the FAA will need new privacy policies. "This is a new development in the aerospace industry."

In general, McDonald says people should be excited: drones could change the landscape, bring new jobs and research to the area, and revolutionize the industries where drones can be most useful.

"Under Construction” is WYSO’s series on growth in the greater Dayton area. We dig underneath the physical and economic markers of growth to look at the human consequences. Check it out Thursdays on Morning Edition.