Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, have revolutionized warfare, allowing airstrikes from an undetected position and removing soldiers from danger. The U.S. has rapidly deployed drones in its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.
But the use of drones for commercial purposes is in its early days.
On February 23, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed new rules that would allow the use of drones in the commercial airspace. Several major businesses – Amazon, most notably – have pushed for the use of drones for commercial activity, raising eyebrows along with questions over safety. Up until now, the federal government has allowed small drones for recreational purposes, but has kept them off limits for business. But spurred on by a Congressional mandate to begin allowing drones to penetrate the commercial airspace, the FAA just cracked opened the door to a massive new opportunity for oil and gas companies.
If finalized, the FAA rules would allow commercial operators to use drones without a pilot’s license. The rules would also open up the use of drones beyond the several testing sights that they are currently limited to. The ramifications are unclear, but the FAA proposal could be a watershed moment for the nascent commercial drone industry.
A study by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International found that the commercial market for drones could reach $13.6 billion within the first three…