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Editorial: Grounding drones puts U.S. behind rest of world


There are all sorts of possibilities for using unmanned drone aircraft to make our lives better. No pun intended, but the sky's the limit.

Except in the United States. Here, the Federal Aviation Administration has decreed that there is to be no use of drones for commercial purposes.

You can buy one of the small aircraft for your own personal use, perhaps to inspect the shingles on your roof. But if you set up a business to do the same thing elsewhere in your neighborhood, for a price, you may run afoul of the FAA.

Some people already have. As The Associated Press reported, the Washington Nationals baseball team had used a drone to take publicity pictures of players on its spring training field in Florida. The little craft never left the confines of the field. Yet once the FAA became aware, the Nationals' drone was grounded.

In other countries, drones already are in commercial use. Some energy companies use them to inspect the undersides of offshore oil and gas drilling platforms.

But the FAA has not yet developed rules for commercial use of drones in the United States. Though drones have been around for years, it took action by Congress in 2012 to require the agency to develop the rules. They are to be phased in, perhaps beginning within a year.

Lots of ideas for use of drones, including delivery of everything from parcels to pizzas, have been suggested in the United States. But because the FAA has dragged its feet on developing rules for them, we lag behind other countries.

Americans used to be known as the world's top innovators. We invented things. We used and refined new technologies. We made lives better in the process. We were trail blazers, envied and emulated throughout the world.

What happened?


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