Thanks to a new court decision, unmanned commercial drones are more or less legal for the time being. Unfortunately for the drone industry, it probably won't have a field day just yet.
A US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) judge has ruled that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has no legal authority over unmanned drones, which qualify as small aircraft.
The judge dismissed a $10,000 (about £6,000, AU$11,000) fine that the FAA had leveled against a commercial drone operator.
The FAA is the organization that's been enforcing the ban on commercial drones in the US since 2007, but with its wings effectively clipped, Amazon and every other company that wants to use the aircraft is technically free to do so.
That said, Amazon and the likes of Facebook (possibly) probably aren't dumb enough to start flooding the air with drones considering this ruling will inevitably be appealed.
In fact, the drone industry is adopting a measured approach in the ruling's aftermath.
"We are reviewing the decision very carefully and we have also been in touch with the FAA to discuss its implications and the agency's response," Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International President and CEO Michael Toscano said in a statement.
He continued, "Our paramount concern is safety. We must ensure the commercial use of [unmanned aerial systems, or UAS] takes place in a safe and responsible manner, whenever commercial use occurs. The decision also underscores the immediate need for a regulatory framework for small UAS."
Before this decision the FAA was working on writing actual rules for drone operators in the US.
Those rules are supposed to be drafted by 2015, but the appeals process and whatever follows will almost certainly cause delays, and this might end up harming the drone industry more than it helps it.
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