"It tests the waters and provides some understanding of these systems. Also, from a political standpoint, it helps address some of the concerns in Congress about the ability of U.S. companies to really address this market," said Philip Finnegan, director of corporate analysis at the Teal Group, a leading aerospace and defense market analysis company. "It's a way of providing an interim step before you go out and do the final rule. And the final rule is going to take a long time."
One of the most troublesome issues the FAA must address in its final rule is to outline the differences between using a drone for commercial purposes versus solely for recreation, and then to police drone operators accordingly.
Under current law, for instance, it is technically legal to equip a drone with a camera and snap pictures of a scenic countryside. Selling those pictures, however, is not allowed.
Ironically, that system may have created a situation in which the most responsible operators can't use drones legally while the most irresponsible can.
"It's going to be very difficult for the FAA to control this. Part of the problem is there are severe restrictions on the commercial operation of these, and a lot of those people would be the most responsible," Mr. Finnegan said. "When it comes to hobbyists — no training, dim awareness of the risks — there is very little in terms of limitations. It's a serious, serious problem."