The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday it has granted the first permission for commercial drone flights over U.S. land. It's all a part of the government's new program: "Know Your Drones." The FAA is loosening restrictions on commercial uses of the unmanned aircraft, so get ready for it. The BP energy corporation and drone maker AeroVironment of California have been given permission to use a Puma drone to survey pipelines, roads and equipment at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, the agency said. The first flight took place on Sunday. You remember BP energy, don't you? They are the current world record holder for the biggest oil spill of all time. What could possibly go wrong with this operation? Last summer, the FAA had approved the use of drones for flights over the Arctic Ocean to scout icebergs, count whales and monitor drilling platforms.
Of course, the ironic thing about all of this is the idea that these are truly "unmanned" flights. Sure, it's hard to get a full-sized human in side one of these four foot long aereoplanes, but there is a guy sitting somewhere in a darkened room with his joystick directing the action from his easy chair. I'll give you a moment to wipe that mental image from your mind as I prepare to press on: the point is that they aren't autonomous robots, sent by the overlords to keep us in line. They're souped-up model planes flown by specially trained nerds, using all those mad video game skills their parents told them would never amount to anything. So there, mom and dad!
Now back to the paranoia: Drone makers warn us that if the FAA doesn't move forward more quickly on these regulations, businesses from real estate agents to wedding video makers aren't going to wait for government permission. Soon, the sky will be full of little planes, watching this and filming that. So, in that spirit, I would like to suggest that we put them to their best use. Remember all those signs on the side of the highway that said, "Speed Checked By Aircraft?" I think it's time to put some teeth back in that fear from above. Or maybe we could just get some really great footage of next year's Rose Bowl Parade.