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FAA Poised To Miss Deadline For Drone Regulations

After months of delay, the Federal Aviation Administration may miss its self-imposed deadline to for issuing rules and regulations governing commercial use of drones.

CBS News reported on Monday that “it is evident” that the agency will fail to meet the deadline it imposed on itself, leaving the commercial ban on drones in place for the time being.

According to CBS, “Congress ordered the FAA to develop and implement these rules by late 2015, and now it is nearly certain that the FAA will not meet that deadline,” and will most likely not issue regulations until 2017. (RELATED: Sen. Markey: We Need Protection Before Commercial Drones Take Off)

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry trade group, claims that, “the U.S. loses $27.6 million a day—or $10 billion each year,” because of the lack of a regulatory structure for commercial drone use.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, media executive L. Gordon Crovitz noted that Amazon is the company with the most at stake, and argues that the popularity of drones as holiday gifts this year “is a reminder that the Grinch of federal regulators stole Christmas from [Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos.” (RELATED: FAA Tells Amazon ‘No Drones!’)

“More than a year ago,” Crovitz wrote, “the Amazon CEO made the surprise announcement … that his company was investing whatever research and development it took to design and build delivery drones,” which Bezos claimed “would deliver packages directly to consumers within 30 minutes, faster and cheaper than by trucks.”

However, “bureaucrats at the FAA prohibit the commercial use of drones,” forcing Amazon to do both research and testing outside the U.S.

During a recent Business Insider conference, Bezos claimed that regulations were the major hurdle remaining before the implementation of drone technology, saying “I think it is sad but possible that the U.S. could be late” to benefiting from drones. (RELATED: Drone Ban Will Stifle Research, Professors Warn)

Commercial drones have already taken off in other countries, Crovitz says, and thousands are now being used “to deliver emergency medications; to monitor farms, drilling areas, and construction sites; and to film movies and news” in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

In the U.S., though, he claims, “the FAA has approved a mere 10 commercial drone operators … [and] the Obama administration has missed numerous congressional deadlines for decriminalizing the business use of drones.”

“Members of Congress are keenly aware of what’s riding on this drone rule,” CBS reported, and South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune “is among those who would like to try to use the FAA authorization as leverage to push the FAA to speed up its development of the commercial drone rules.”

The FAA, however, contends that the task is complicated by the fact that the U.S. has the busiest airspace in the world, and says it is eager “to make sure we get it right the first time.” The agency says it gets about 25 calls per month about close calls between drones and manned aircraft.

Follow Peter Fricke on Twitter

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