Top 20 Stories of 2013 – No. 14: More Drones, but Legal Questions Remain

AP, Amazon embrace drones for business use
December 19, 2013 Updated: December 21, 2013    

As part of our comprehensive year-end coverage, Epoch Times editors have made a selection of stories that we believe are significantly changing the world. The stories are ranked from No. 20, having the least impact, to No. 1—our top pick. 

Each story is based on a major news story of 2013 that will have lasting impact into 2014 and beyond. Check back daily as we countdown to Jan. 1st and our New Year.

Drones have been making headlines around the world for years, mainly for their increasing use as a tool for fighting wars. But in 2013, drones have expanded in popularity in the civilian arena.

Drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), are for example increasingly popular among media companies. In the fallout of the Typhoon Haiyan disaster in the Philippines in November, media outlets used drones to take aerial footage of the affected areas. The BBC currently owns three drones.

With the prices of drones dropping, they have also entered the consumer market. Drones with built-in cameras sell for as little as a few hundred dollars.

Companies are also starting to turn their attention to the potential uses of drones. Amazon made headlines this year when it revealed it’s developing an “Octocopter” drone for delivering goods.

Research is also being done into how drones can be used in relief efforts after natural disasters. Drones could be deployed to transport relief goods to remote areas, provide emergency communications systems, or help relief workers locate victims.

Legal Debate

But while the list of the possible uses of drones is expected to grow further in 2014, so will the number of calls on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make the use of drones for commercial purposes possible.

Currently, a plan such as Amazon’s would be illegal, as the FAA restricts the use of drones. A U.S. congressional bill has tasked the agency with creating a plan to integrate UAV’s into the national airspace system by September 2015.

As drones develop further, the privacy debate is expected to heat up. Some members of Congress are already calling for legislation that would curb the use of drones to carry out surveillance.