By Mary Kuhlman
The use of small drones is limited to hobbyists and a small number of government agencies, researchers and businesses, but that could soon change.
The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to release new rules by the end of the year.
Dick Honneywell, executive director, Ohio/Indiana UAS Center, says the rules would regulate the commercial use of drones, or unmanned aircraft systems.
"That would be a policy step that would be very important that would allow us to move the industry forward and allow us to engage UAS into a number of different productive applications, and support economic development within the state," he states.
Honneywell says drones could be used in a variety of ways, including inspecting bridges, police search and rescue efforts, and correctional facility surveillance.
Some people have privacy concerns about drones, but the FAA has stated it isn't an "immediate safety concern."
President Barack Obama is expected to issue an executive order about the privacy issue after the FAA releases its draft regulations.
T.J. Johnson, local chapter president of the Drone User Group in Indianapolis, says small drones are useful in agriculture for monitoring crop health and targeting problems.
"We can help control when is the proper time to apply a pesticide to a given area of a field, not the entire field," he explains. "Or, when do we give the plants to more water to make farming more efficient and provide better food sources?"
The FAA rules are expected to cover altitude limits and license requirements for operators, among other things.
Johnson says the greatest challenge is finalizing the regulations and building a safe base for operations.
"We need to make that sure it's done safely, but we need to also get these regulations moving," he stresses. "And the longer we hold back, we're being held back from being competitive in the world and taking advantage of all the benefits these drones have to offer."
The UAS market is projected to be an $82 billion industry, and create a potential 100,000 jobs over the next decade.