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Obama: U.S. Needs Rules for Commercial Drones

Mr. Obama said that while nonmilitary drones have a range of “incredibly useful functions,” from farming to conservation work, “we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for” the devices. He said in an interview with CNN from India that he has assigned relevant federal agencies to study the technology and talk to stakeholders in order to propose rules that protect Americans’ safety and privacy.

Drones have exploded in popularity world-wide over the past several years as advances in technology have made them smaller, cheaper and easier to fly. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration allows the recreational use of drones but effectively bans commercial flights until it completes rules for the devices in the next several years.

The FAA as early as this week is expected to formally propose rules to pave the way for widespread commercial drone flights. In the meantime, the agency has approved 17 operators to use drones commercially in the U.S. to ease pent-up demand. The Obama Administration also is planning soon to issue an executive order on privacy rules for the devices, according to reports.

Drone entrepreneurs and safety advocates have criticized the current regulatory situation, saying it has resulted in thousands of people flying drones in the U.S. with little oversight. Indeed, the FAA says drones have gotten too close to airports and aircraft more than 100 times in the U.S.

On Monday, the Secret Service said it believes a recreational drone pilot crashed his helicopter on the White House grounds.

The drone that crashed at the White House was a DJI Phantom quadcopter, a popular consumer device that costs around $1,000 and is made in China. Mr. Obama said the device is one “you buy at Radioshack,” but added that he would let the Secret Service discuss the incident.

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