FAA Rules Should Spur Drone Experiments

IT should take the proposed FAA rules as an invitation to get companies exploring how to use drones and similar semi-autonomous gadgets.
 =CES 2015: 11 Peeks Into The Future
CES 2015: 11 Peeks Into The Future
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So, who's in charge of drone strategy at your company?

With the FAA's newly proposed guidelines for the US commercial use of drones, we have a sense of what's likely to be allowed and what's to be banned near-term when people use small drones on the job. Overall the rules would give companies a lot of room to experiment with drones under 55 pounds.

The most-restrictive proposal would require employees to see the drone they're operating at all times (a buzz-kill for would-be Amazon drone deliveries) and operate only during the day. On the lenient side, employees wouldn't need a pilot's license to operate drones, only to pass a test an "FAA knowledge test" every two years. Here are a few of the other proposed rules:

  • Flights can't go above 500 feet or faster than 100 mph (100 mph!)
  • Drones can only fly over people directly involved in the flight
  • Operators must stay clear of airports and restricted airspace

The FAA is seeking comment on these rules, including whether or when to allow flights beyond line-of-sight. It's also considering less restrictive rules for drones under 4.4 pounds. 

Creative IT pros should see drones as just another amazing node out on the Internet of Things, and another ticket to obliterate boundaries around traditional IT. Someone at your company will do clever things with drones. Why not you and your team?

At InformationWeek, we think drone strategy is so important for IT leaders that we've asked Chris Anderson -- CEO of 3D Robotics, author, and former editor-in-chief of Wired magazine -- to kick off our annual InformationWeek Conference, April 27 and 28 in Las Vegas. He'll discuss drones and more broadly where automation is headed.

IT leaders can help their companies think about drones well beyond the small helicopters and planes the FAA is looking to regulate. Drone strategy can include a range of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles -- things that roll along train tracks, float on rivers and oceans, or steer around parking lots, store aisles, or orchards.

Camera-equipped drones open up huge possibilities for tasks like quick inspections that have been dangerous or time consuming. GE Software VP Bill Ruh, in discussing where the Internet of Things is headed, called video "the most underutilized sensor in the industrial market," and drones offer a new way to collect that visual data. And once we have data, IT's skills in integrating, analyzing, and securing information become essential.

We're humans, so we can't help but be dazzled by drones because they fly. Who doesn't want to fly? But there's a broader consumerization story with this phase of drone development and regulation. Semi-autonomous or even autonomous vehicles -- whether they fly, roll, or float -- that were practical only for highly specialized uses like factory and warehouse automation will become affordable and practical for much more everyday uses.

Do you have a creative drone initiative to share? Drop me an email or Tweet to discuss.

Attend Interop Las Vegas, the leading independent technology conference and expo series designed to inspire, inform, and connect the world's IT community. In 2015, look for all new programs, networking opportunities, and classes that will help you set your organization’s IT action plan. It happens April 27 to May 1. Register with Discount Code MPOIWK for $200 off Total Access & Conference Passes.

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