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Drone Innovation May Finally Take Off in America

October 26, 2017

Trump is opening the skies to robotic aircraft. The White House has launched a new program to expand testing of drones, which means states and local governments will now be able to seek sweeping Federal Aviation Administration approval to allow drone flights over people, at night and out of sight of an operator. Previously, anyone wishing to use drones in those situations had to seek a waiver from the FAA, which was a long, laborious, and rarely successful edeavor.

The new scheme, in contrast, will allow local officials to gain approval from the FAA to declare large zones, even entire states, open for drone-related experimentation. Clearly that’s good news for firms like Amazon and Google, which have so far had to look overseas to conduct trials that will now be easier to do in America. What’s less clear, as the Washington Post points out, is what communities in drone-friendly states will be able to do if they don't want the aircraft buzzing around overhead.

Disgruntled parties aside, it's good news for American innovation, as it opens up a world of possibilities for experimentation that had been practically off limits. We’ve previously reported that the FAA has been slow to open the skies for drone testing, even while admitting that this sluggishness harms innovation. Now, Trump’s clamor to smash regulations gives the sector a chance to prove its worth.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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