NTIA steps up effort to develop consensus as to best practices for drone use

In the race to see what agency will get gets its arms around drone management first, it looks like the dark horse is moving out in front. The FAA might ordinarily have been figured to be the odds-on favorite – it does regulate air traffic, after all, and it’s been subject to Congressional direction to deal with drones for several years already. And the FCC would have been in the running, too, since some drones use spectrum for video transmissions and communication. But the FAA has been very slow out of the gate and the FCC hasn’t even gotten started.

Which leaves (wait for it) the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)! And sure enough, there’s NTIA prancing out ahead of the pack.

As we reported a couple of months ago, NTIA had opened a proceeding looking at “best practices” for the commercial and private use of drones. (Law enforcement and other noncommercial governmental drone use is not on the table here.) The goal is to look at broader drone-related issues, such as privacy concerns, transparency and accountability. Now, having received more than 50 responses to its initial request for comments, NTIA has scheduled a series of four meetings “of a multistakeholder process concerning privacy, transparency, and accountability issues regarding commercial and private use” of drones.

The first of these meetings is set for August 3, 2015. The rest are scheduled for September 24, October 21 and November 20. All will run from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. (ET) in the Boardroom of the American Institute of Architects at 1735 New York Avenue, N.W., in Washington.

The meetings will focus on the general areas addressed in NTIA’s March request for comments. But don’t expect NTIA itself to announce its own rules. Rather, it’s looking to build consensus among the various interested parties (dubbed “stakeholders” by NTIA). NTIA does figure, though, that it can “help the parties reach clarity on what their positions are and whether there are options for compromise toward consensus”.

So if you’re interested in participating in an “open, transparent, consensus-driven process to develop best practices for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues” regarding commercial and private drone use in the national airspace system, mark your calendar and plan on coming to D.C. (or plan on catching the meetings via webcast). Since all the specifics of the meetings are subject to change, be sure to check with the NTIA’s website for updates.