Joshua Brustein reports in Business Week on a recent NTSB ruling striking a fine for commercial drone flight near the University of Virginia. The specifics of the case are unsurprising because the FAA’s policy recommendations aren’t law; but the back and forth demonstrates just what a legal morass drones will become, and quickly. Our laws simply weren’t designed for pilotless, automated vehicles, and even remote-control flying machines are posing a challenge as they blur distinctions between hobby R/C pilots, commercial operators and of course governmental use that will be ever-more-forthcoming.
Drones are an example of boundary-breaking technology, and by shattering underlying assumptions that make our sets of laws somewhat consistent, drones shine daylight onto the ways in which new robotic technology will force both legal limits and cultural norms to be re-evaluated constantly. If these technology innovations are already outpacing the speed with which we can change law, just how will we respond in a few years’ time when technology moves us through robotic innovations even faster?