Several other countries such as Canada and France have been faster to permit commercial drone flights than the U.S., a government study found.
While the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is still finalizing proposed regulations allowing drones weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms) to fly for hire, other nations have been permitting such flights since as early as 1996, according to a Government Accountability Office report Monday.
Canada has even granted blanket approvals for people flying the smallest drones, weighing less than 4.4 pounds, according to the report. In France and the U.K., governments have begun permitting limited flights beyond a drone operator’s view. Such flights won’t be permitted initially under the FAA’s proposed rules.
That proposal contains many similarities to drone-flight restrictions in other nations, the GAO said. The FAA has said it expects to finalize the rule by the end of this year.
Until then, the FAA has been granting waivers for drone operations. As of Monday, it had approved 1,201 such exemptions.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has told Congress the U.S. has had to move more slowly because it has far more aviation traffic than other countries.
The U.S. also faces a challenge with drone safety as incidents in which the unmanned vehicles fly too close to traditional aircraft rise swiftly. There were 650 such incidents through Aug. 9 this year compared with 238 for all of 2014.