According to comments made in a speech in Orlando on May 13, 2014 by Jim Wheeler, chief of the FAAs unmanned aircraft division, the FAA may have a fast track approval process in place for low risk commercial RCMA applications like agriculture, film making and inspections of utilities and oil and gas facilities by November 2014.
The AUVSI, which sponsored the conference at which Williams spoke, has estimated that the unmanned aircraft industry will generate 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in economic impact once the FAA begins approving commercial operations.
This is encouraging news! I hope the FAA is capable of delivering on this. The stakes are high. If the FAA doesn't do something reasonable soon for the under 400 feet and less than 55 lbs crowd they may have a world class mess on their hands that they may never recover from. They need to demonstrate some progress even if it's not the ultimate solution. Frankly, I'm skeptical. They have demonstrated serious incompetence as they've over promised and under delivered on everything related to RCMAs. Recently a reader that has extensive experience with the FAA told me that their motto is, "We're not happy until you're not happy."
Update as of May 22: Congress Thinks the FAA is 'Not well positioned to regulate drones.' According to a post on Motherboard:
A new report from the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee suggests lawmakers are "concerned that the FAA may not be well positioned to manage effectively the introduction of UAS in the United States" and that many in Congress believe the FAA will miss its deadline. They specifically note that the task has been complicated by the recent National Transportation Safety Board ruling that commercial drones are at least temporarily legal.
Also John Goglia, in Forbes asks, "Why can't US follow Australia's approach to small drone operations?"
Australia’s announcement last week of a notice of proposed rulemaking to allow very small UAVs – those weighing 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) or less – to operate without the need for special pilot or aircraft certification, so long as they operate under certain prescribed conditions, deserves attention. The conditions for operations without certification or approval are: see forbes article.
Update May 27: The Denver Post says, "FAA is dragging on drone regulation"
It's become increasingly clear that the major obstacle to the use of drones to assist in tasks that would lower costs and improve productivity across a host of commercial activities is not the technology but the Federal Aviation Administration.
This lumbering agency is on a slow-motion process of figuring out how to regulate commercial drone use. And we do mean slow-motion. Seven years after asserting that commercial drones are illegal, the FAA is still trying to get its regulatory act together.