In the United States it's legal for you to take your A.R Drone out for a spin around the neighborhood, but if you want to use one to shoot a car chase on a closed movie set you'd be breaking the law. The use of commercial drones is a complicated issue, in part because of how many different ways you can use them. Defense companies have traditionally been the biggest advocates for drones; but now everyone from Hollywood to your realtor are pulling for the unmanned aircraft.
The Motion Picture Association of America reportedly spent $4.11 million over 2012 and 2013 lobbying for several issues, including the legalization of drones for use in movie production. Both the National Association of Broadcasters and National Association of Realtors have thrown their cash in the ring as well, with the hope of getting drones approved for use in aerial photography. There's hope they might get their wish. In March, a judge ruled that a man could use a drone to shoot a movie on a college campus, despite current FAA regulations to the contrary. That case is now headed to the US Court of Appeals. However, even if the court rules in favor of drones, the fight will be far from over.
There are a total of 68 groups currently lobbying regulators to legalize drones, split in half between defense and non-defense groups.There are a total of 68 groups currently lobbying regulators to legalize drones, split in half between defense and non-defense groups. 28 are actually universities and local governments who want the opportunity to build drone-friendly test facilities. Farmers are also getting in on the action. The National Agricultural Aviation Association wants to replace crop dusters with drones. And who could forget Amazon's Prime Air service? The argument can and has been made that the premature announcement of the service was really just a clever lobbying strategy by Jeff Bezos. What better way to influence lawmakers than an angry mob who wants their next pair of socks air lifted to their backyard? (Amazon shot that demo outside the US, BTW).
With so many people campaigning for drones, why aren't we already allowed to use them? There are several reasons. One big argument is that several of the proposed uses would have drones cruising at the same altitude as some low-flying planes, a risk for accidental collisions. There's also a matter of privacy. No one wants a drone whizzing by their 32nd floor window while they're sweating to the oldies. To combat all that there will likely have to be regulations in place before commercial drones can be come commonplace. The FAA is currently writing those regulations, and has a due date of this year to present them to lawmakers. We can only hope that means we'll be getting drone-delivered groceries come early 2015.