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Published on May 16th, 2018 | by Guest

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Do you have a drone? Then be ready to The Air Traffic Control!

Sure. The idea that your drone will be regulated and you won’t be able to just fly it any time you like isn’t a nice one. What’s the point of having something like a drone if you can’t fly it whenever you want?

At the same time, it’s not that hard to understand the problem. There will soon be six million registered drones in the US alone – which is probably underselling the number some seeing as many people don’t register their drones.

Even if we ignore that, six million is a big number. To give you an idea (and to get over the incomprehensibility with big numbers we have) If you were to fly a different drone every day, it would take you more than 16 thousand years to fly them all.

In terms of the size of the US, that’s a drone and a half per square mile if they would be evenly spaced out across the entire country. But they’re not. They’re located where people are. And that’s also where all the airports and the airplanes taking off and landing are.

What’s more, that number is going to grow exponentially as drones become cheaper to manufacture and they become more than just fun toys and ways to take pictures. That’s worrying. Especially seeing as the first alleged crash related to drones was reported earlier this year.

The regulation problem

Regulators have been trying to figure out for a while now how to handle drones. So far, the rule is that drones can only be operated by a person who can physically see the vehicle. Obviously, if the goal is to have drones that deliver packages, having people walking beneath them to keep them in line of sight kind of defeats the purpose.

But it’s understandable. After all, planes take off from and land on clearly demarked spaces. Drones don’t do that. Drones can lift off from your back garden, the back of airplanes or anywhere else for that matter. That’s a regulatory nightmare and a disaster waiting to happen.

In effect, the only solution is for some sort of air traffic control. We’d need some way for all those drones to communicate with aircraft, law enforcement (in case there is a no-fly zone) and each other, of course. But an aircraft control force like we have today wouldn’t cut it. There are currently about 15 thousand aircraft controllers in the US and they manage a little less than 90 thousand flights.

If we extrapolate the number of flight controllers we’d need to manage even a million flying drones at one time that would mean we’d need to train up another 166 thousand controllers. That would take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. And that would only be for a million drones! Imagine how many there might eventually be flying around?

That makes this is sticky problem. As a result, the regulatory bodies have stated that they’ll have a plan ready to go by about 2025. But that’s not really flying with the companies who want to use drones as part of their business plan.

And there are a lot of them. Amazon, Google and tons of smaller players really want to get up and go already. They see a real future where they can deliver goods straight to people’s doors without having to rely on roads. This isn’t just an exciting idea to companies, either. There are plenty of municipal governments who would cheer the arrival of drones and the accompanying reduction in road traffic.

An international affair

As a result of the feet dragging going on on the regulatory front, a lot of companies – including Amazon – have started moving their operations to countries where they regulations aren’t as tough or where companies have already rolled out a viable idea.

For example, Amazon has moved its drone ideas to the UK. More companies are no doubt following suit – after all, what country doesn’t want to be the innovative center for drone technology and all that comes with it? That’s putting a lot of pressure on the regulatory bodies to hurry up already. Even the White House has gotten in on the act, suggesting that some companies should be given the freedom to run trails while the necessary regulatory bodies consider what this all means.

Of course, that brings problems all of its own. After all, the entire reason why the process is taking so long is to make sure there isn’t some sort of oversight which would cause a serious disaster. Because nobody – especially not the companies who want to use drones – would be served by serious disaster that turns the already skeptical public entirely against the use of drones.

That’s happened several times before with other technologies. For example, it’s why there are no zeppelin aircraft carrying people through the skies.

So what’s going to happen?

Whoever knows that is in a position to make a pretty penny betting on the future. Unfortunately, that’s not me. But what we do know is that regulation is coming and that we can be sure that drones – even one ones owned by you and me – are going to be affected. Whether it will amount to some sort of Wi-Fi cloud that connects all the drones together to see where they are, what they’re doing and where they’re going, or something else will be something the future will reveal.

But what we can absolutely be sure of is that something is coming. The potential for drones is too great to let it be wasted by overly long regulations. Some network will be rolled out. And as the years pass and even more vehicles take to the sky (flying cars, for example) those regulations will be revised and screwed down tighter and tighter.

So, enjoy your drones for right now. Today you won’t have to have any sort of a flight plan or register it with an authority. Chances are, that will certainly not always be the case.


About the author:

Alaine Gordon is a young and talented content manager at https://essays.solutions/. She has been writing professionally since 2010 about almost everything, from psychology and to finance. Alaine Gordon graduated from the University of Colorado with B.A. in Journalism, 2011. She is an open-minded, creative person who loves to make people smile. Her credo is ‘Life is a fun enterprise’. In her free time she loves traveling, reading science fiction and knitting. Her huge dream is to visit every single country in the world.

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