This article appeared in USA TODAY last week. Apparently, On Monday, the Senate sent to President Obama legislation that would require the FAA to devise ways to safely allow commercial UAVs (UAVs with DSLRs) to operate in US airspace within three years.
This gives formality to the schedule the FAA was already working to. The good news is the FAA if this bill is signed the FAA will be required to make it happen. The bad news is they don't have to do it until Sept 30, 2015. The legislation (“FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012“) also calls on the FAA to establish rules for smaller drones weighing up to 55 pounds within 27 months (May 2014). The schedule for all drones is Sept. 30, 2015.
Can you believe this? Congress and the President (if he signs HR 658) in this sluggish economy are willing to shutdown a whole industry for 3 years while they figure out how to regulate it. They are shutting down more than just real estate photographers using UAVs but all the companies building these devices and using them for any purpose. Shutting down an industry for 3 years to improve regulation is like saying, "Oh, we have a problem with banking regulation, let's shut down the banks for 3 years while we get this regulation problem fixed".
At the same time commercial UAV operators are shutdown by the FAA, the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) released a press release last week effectively thanking Senators John Mica (R-FL), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Tom Petri (R-WI) for exempting hobbyists from the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. This completely defies logic!
A second article on this subject last week by Alan Levin at BusinessWeek.com suggests that "The agency will likely approve only unpopulated areas and require that the drones stay within a few hundred feet off the ground and in sight of the operator". The unpopulated part, if approved, will essentially shutdown UAV based real estate photography for good.