Growing buzz about drones over Houston

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Commercial drones could be flying over Houston by 2015 if Federal Aviation Administration regulations click into place, but some industry experts think it will take longer.

"Maybe later part of 2015 or early  2016," said Michael Buscher, CEO of Vanguard Defense Industries in Conroe.

Those drones could include unmanned flying delivery vehicles for Domino's Pizza and Amazon.

Although, some experts claim those programs are still a long way from implementation.

Right now, commercial unmanned aerial vehicle licensing is nearly non-existent because the framework needed to safely operate drones in the presence of regular aircraft and people is not yet in place.

"The reason why unmanned aerial systems aren't in wide spread use now is they do not have the ability to detect and avoid other aircraft," said Dr. David Bridges, Director of UAS, for Texas A&M.

Six test sites established across the country, including one in Corpus Christi, effort to iron out the kinks and make flying drones a safe, regulated commercial industry.

But beyond safety, there are other issues to work out with commercial drone aviation including: noise, flight paths, schedules, insurance, national security and civil rights to name a few.

Chief among the concerns is privacy. A recent FAA report acknowledged the issue.

"There is no federal law that specifically addresses privacy concerns with respect to civil drones…" part of the FAA's UAS comprehensive plan reads.

But the FAA believes the current network of federal and local laws regarding privacy are sufficient to handle the issue.
Local 2 legal analyst Brian Wice agrees.

"The sky is not falling. The laws we have on the books in Texas both on the criminal side with ‘improper photography' and the civil side with regard to invasion of privacy, to seek damages, are more than adequate," Wice said.

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