Experts in Oklahoma Split on Rules for Drones

Article excerpt

An Oklahoma State University professor said the United States is behind the rest of the world in operation of small unmanned aerial vehicles.

"Clearly, small unmanned aircraft systems do not need to have the same restrictions as larger systems and since we are falling behind the rest of the world in operation of these small systems," said Jamey D. Jacob, a Ray and Linda Booker Professor in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at OSU.

But there needs to be some regulations in place that allow companies to operate, Jacob said.

"It is my opinion that there needs to be some additional testing and development first before these go into general commercial use to help determine what those rules need to be," Jacob said. "Development of robust autopilots, communication links, frangible structures and sense-and-avoid systems will help protect the public from accidents and help resolve issues related to privacy."

However, the chief executive of Oklahoma City-based Design Intelligence Inc. LLC said many of the public's concerns about privacy are moot - at least for now.

James L. Grimsley, head of DII and president of the Unmanned Systems Alliance of Oklahoma, a state chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said federal laws disallow UAV operation domestically, making state legislation unnecessary.

Grimsley urged a cautious approach to legislation.

"Currently unmanned aircraft cannot operate in the national airspace system except in very restrictive situations and circumstances," Grimsley said. "The FAA is considering all of the factors, such as safety and privacy, associated with integrating unmanned aircraft into the NAS and will start allowing unmanned aircraft to operate in the next few years."

Much of the legislation that has been introduced at the state level throughout the country has been hastily prepared and without input from aviation experts or those familiar with the FAA or the UAS integration efforts, Grimsley said.

"We believe the FAA will address these concerns when final regulations and rules are put in place for unmanned aircraft," he said. "If not, then that is the time when states can take a second look and make sure that privacy rights are protected. …