Imagine a world where drones deliver emergency medical supplies to people in need. Or shuttle commuters from place to place avoiding ground traffic and breaking down the geographical divide between cities and suburbs.

Autonomous drones could spray pesticides on crops, monitor construction sites, or film adventure seekers skiing down mountains.

Potential drone applications are limited only by our imaginations… and our ability to operate them safely.

Right now the FAA is working together with the tech industry to build new rules of engagement to ensure that these unmanned aerial vehicles avoid a collision without the eyes of human pilots.

These regulatory hurdles are the last obstacle to letting the market for autonomous drones soar.

The current airspace ecosystem

Aircraft, from Cessna 152s to Airbus 380s, are the most common vehicles that populate and cruise the airspace. And they all require a pilot’s eyes to operate.

In the case of commercial aircraft, they also require a Mode C Transponder, which determines the aircraft’s altitude. All commercial and most private aircraft also have to communicate with Air Traffic Control (ATC), people on the ground who logistically coordinate which aircraft taxi, take off, and land at airports.

This is a system with three layers of protection and vigilance to avoid horrific and often fatal crashes: ATC, Mode C, and the pilot’s eyes. With unmanned aircraft, this universally accepted system for keeping the National Airspace System safe will have to change.

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