Airborne scanning using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is widely recognized as a potentially huge opportunity for the private sector. However, it has also been widely noted that legislation is lagging behind technical capabilities and end-user demands (see my report from the last SPAR Europe, for instance).
However, things may be starting to move in the right direction, as explained to SPAR International 2013 delegates by Nick Palatiello, Assistant Executive Director for External Affairs with the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS).
“There are 36 [US] states that have introduced or have some sort of UAV legislation in the state legislatures. MAPPS is working to make sure that the private sector is able to use UAVs in the commercial market. Right now it’s limited only to law enforcement agencies, to universities, but we are trying to make sure that the private sector is able to use these for commercial purposes,” said Palatiello.
He noted that two states have already had UAV legislation signed by their Governors – Virginia and Idaho. In the case of the former it is “a two-year moratorium that starts July 1st. It really goes after law enforcement being able to use UAVs.” In the case of Idaho, which passed last week and also goes into effect in July, “it targets mostly state law enforcement, however, it does have an exemption specifically for mapping or resource management,” explained Palatiello. “That’s a big deal – that’s one of the first states that has an exemption for mapping. It does allow for the private sector – when the FAA finally allows the private sector to use UAVs – for mapping not to be restricted, so that’s a big win for us.”
He added that another state (Georgia) has a similar provision in its legislation and that a number of states are now addressing the issue.