The market for commercial drone operations continues to grow, and the CPA profession is watching closely.
The American Institute of CPAs’ (AICPA) State Regulation and Legislation Team is working in collaboration with state CPA societies to monitor trends in state legislation related to emerging technologies, including drones.
CPA firms can use drones to aid in monitoring infrastructure for defects and assessing large geographical areas. As an example, EY recently announced that it will test drones to do inventory counts in manufacturing and retail warehouses. Meanwhile last year, PwC opened a global drone center in Poland to help clients solve their business challenges.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last year modified its rules to more broadly authorize commercial drone operations in the United States. More recently, in May, a federal appeals court struck down the FAA rule that mandates device registration for recreational drone owners.
While this ruling applies to recreational and not commercial drone use, it is indicative of the regulatory environment around drones. As drones become more consumer friendly and uses become more widespread, lawmakers will continue to develop more rules and standards.
Although the FAA and the courts seem to be moving towards expanded drone use, CPA firms should still be mindful of state laws as state-level regulation and legislation continues to increase.
In 2017, 38 states introduced drone-related legislation, and 12 states passed such legislation. While some state legislatures, such as Minnesota and South Dakota, introduced legislation to allow for expanded use of drones, some legislatures are introducing more restrictive legislation out of concern for privacy and public safety. For example, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) signed a bill in March that makes drones trespassing onto private property a Class 1 misdemeanor.
While the regulatory and legislative environment surrounding drones continues to evolve, the industry continues to grow. CPA firms can expect to see more drones used in commercial operations, as well as more state legislation in 2018.