Every week on Future Tense, we highlight a talk from Drone U in which a leading thinker speaks about what our drone future may look like. Drone U is produced in cooperation with the New America Foundation. (Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.)
This week, Drone U features a podcast from John Villasenor, a professor of electrical engineering and public policy at UCLA and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Villasenor offers an overview of what developments we can expect in the world of domestic drones in 2014—and the short answer is “a lot.”
Villasenor identifies three areas to watch this year. The first includes the six FAA-designated drone test sites, which will serve as laboratories to experiment with technological, data, and privacy issues. At least one of these sites, explains Villasenor, should become operational in 2014. Villasenor also points to the forthcoming rules that will govern small drones—that is, the kind that Amazon would want to use—which are scheduled to be released in November 2014. Finally, and in no mystery to our Drone U followers, 2014 will usher in a growing interest in innovative commercial applications for drones, including public safety, newsgathering, and agricultural use, among others. Certainly safety and privacy issues will loom large as those commercial applications come to the fore—which is perhaps why the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is starting their year off with a hearing on drones, too.