With someone able to fly a drone onto the White House lawn, it is apparently time to discuss where you can (and cannot) fly drones—and, more importantly, how to track and enforce those boundaries. Bringing together government authorities, industry professionals, and amateur enthusiasts to chat about drones, NASA and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International are hosting a conference at the end of July in Moffett Field, California.
It is admirable to see NASA jumping ahead of hard-line government drone regulation. Safety, security, and privacy are all on the table, but the biggest-ticket item will likely be just how all these drones—the Federal Aviation Administration estimates that 30,000 could be flying over the U.S. by 2020—will be monitored and directed, says associate administrator of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington Jaiwon Shin.
“Today, we see the need to establish a safe low altitude unmanned aerial traffic management system. Bringing together a broad spectrum of people interested in [unmanned aerial systems] technology will help us develop a well-coordinated plan that will guide us in the future,” wrote Shin in a NASA blog post.
NASA officials will be on hand for panel discussions—but so will officials from the FAA, who will offer the government-regulator perspective. In lieu of solid laws governing unmanned flying vehicles, the FAA has clamped down on commercial drones, even stonewalling Amazon’s drone-delivery testing for months until relenting in March. But if we don’t want our Amazon delivery drones crashing into our lunch delivery drones, industry and government will need to hash out a reliable low-altitude traffic control solution.