Drones provide a paradigmatic example of an accelerating technology. They first appeared in the 1950s, but improvements in computation and automation have made drones far more capable in the last ten years. During that short period, drones have already transformed our air force and are on the cusp of commercialization. More generally, when machine intelligence gets into a space, it relentlessly advances, shaking up the world and creating wealth and opportunities.
How the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chooses to regulate drones thus has implications for accelerating technology more generally. And, from what has been published about their proposals, the agency appears to be making a complete hash of the enterprise. Some reports say that commercial drone operators will be required to hold a commercial pilot’s license and thus have experience in manned flight. But the ability to pilot an airplane may be neither necessary nor sufficient to handle drones.