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DAVID KRUSE

By Staff | Oct 31, 2014

The United States is supposed to be the leader in global innovation. That is why the Federal Bureau of Investigations said that there is an onslaught of Chinese hackers probing servers of US companies every day to search for intellectual property they can steal.

FBI Director James Comey said there are U.S. companies that know they are being hacked by the Chinese and those that don’t, but they are all under cyber assault from China or elsewhere.

American business innovators that have to deal with this crap should not have to struggle with U.S. regulators putting unwarranted roadblocks in front of them.

The commercial drone industry is on the cusp of some amazing technical innovation readying worthwhile new products to bring to the market but so far they are being grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

There are a number of startups all racing each other for position to bring new products to the market in the fast growing commercial drone industry that are being stymied by slow moving FAA approval to even test-fly their drones in this country.

Many of these drone companies are focused on agricultural applications of crop monitoring and can add worthwhile data from flights for farmers to better manage crops. They have applications from crop scouting to inspecting wind farms to monitoring and herding livestock.

The Wall Street Journal wrote that after interviewing two dozen drone startups that their primary obstacle to getting out into the market was, “FAA regulation.” Government gets criticized a lot for getting in front of things they should not get in front of, making it much harder to do business than is necessary or reasonable.

I would say that the slow, ineffectual implementation of commercial drone applications resulting from the inexcusable slow pace of FAA regulatory approval is a case in point.

Congress has commanded FFA to design commercial drone regulations by September 2015, but it is already begging off – it won’t meet that deadline. This is unacceptable.

Finishing the drone regulations on time using the 2015 benchmark timeline is no cause for celebration. Failing to do so should be grounds for dismissal for incompetence.

Government has to perform and the FAA doesn’t need any more time to do its job. Government has to learn how to operate at the pace of business.

It is so far behind the curve that it’s stifling the innovators forcing many companies out of country taking their technology to competitors.

The FAA was doing stupid things like requiring drones to carry the aircraft manual on board … like there was someone there to read it. This is just common sense stuff that the FAA is lacking.

Getting FAA approval to even test fly drones has been difficult to get. A Seattle drone company with ag applications was moving to Canada. Someday we may have to hack the servers of Chinese companies for the latest drone technology where Beijing is ahead of the FAA.

The WSJ noted that while U.S. drone innovators are grounded, rivals in China, Europe, Australia and Canada are flying free. Google is developing its new drone delivery system in Canada and Australia.

Google and Amazon have joined drone companies in creating a PAC, lobbying Congress to move the FAA into the real world keeping regulations at pace with innovation. One industry expert said, “There is no question that the technology is 100 miles ahead of where the FAA is right now.”

Commercial use of drones is technically banned, even for agriculture. If a farmer pays anyone for drone services he is technically in violation of FAA rules which only allow hobby flying.

The drone companies have dynamic products that are ready to come to the market for commercial use and can’t get FAA approval. One U.S. drone company moved production to Mexico because U.S. export restrictions blocked them from exporting directly from the U.S.

The lay of the land is that the FAA is thinking in terms of years developing regulations and the industry business models were built on a timeline of weeks or months. What really ticked off a lot of observers is that the FAA gave special approval for the use of drones to Hollywood.

Movie and television production companies got special approval from the FAA to fly drones. They must be star-struck. Maybe that is a good thing, as now other industries can claim discrimination.

Whoever is supposed to be in charge in Washington should be informing the FAA that its performance relative to regulating drone technology is unacceptably inadequate and that it will reboot and get up online or else it can start collecting their civil service pensions, if they have earned them.

Government that doesn’t perform will be held accountable. It seems that only members of Congress can be dysfunctional and keep their jobs.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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