FAA Takes Different Approach to Regulate Commercial Drone Use

In the past few years the hobby world has exploded with the use of drones for aerial photography.  With an increase in popularity the Federal Aviation Administration has been put in a position to regulate these unmanned aircrafts or UAVs. The general public views this new form of technology as a violation of privacy and a nuisance to private property owners.  Part of the misunderstanding is lack of knowledge in individuals.  This lack of knowledge stems from a brand new type of technology that communities haven’t dealt with before. Similar to other industries that may have started as a simple hobby, business professional have found ways to move into the commercial world. From surveying of property and aerial photography, drone pilots are finding themselves in demand with a special skill set.

In 2012, the FAA decided to step in to set regulations for recreational and commercial drone use. Some of these recreational regulations include, not flying closer than 5 miles to an airport, not flying higher than 500 feet and only being able to fly line of sight. Most of these regulations are safety issues that protect general and commercial aviation pilots and their passengers. As you could imagine if a plane collided with a small UAV, it would cause fatal damage to all onboard personal. Beyond the 2012 reform, the FAA has released new requirements on hobbyists in 2016. Each pilot must register each UAV and pay a fee to the FAA. On the commercial side of the drone regulations, each pilot is required to submit for a 333 exemption. The 333 exemption provides business a legal entry to the commercial drone market place. As of August 26 2016, only 5,552 exemptions have been granted. An example of a company that require this exemption is a business that provides aerial mapping for large mines and quarries. Real estate companies have also used the 333 exemption in attempt to acquire an edge over competitors. Using the drone they are able to capture a birds eye view or over head pictures and videos of property. This method has become very popular with real estate companies.

Unmanned drones are a piece of very new technology that is evolving faster than anticipated. Some people are concerned that a drone with a camera can be used to infringe on their privacy. Hobbyist argue against this point saying that drones do not invade privacy of the public.  A lot of controversy surrounds the drone community, soon more laws will be created to settle this controversy.

Not only have drones been used for recreational use but are finding there place within the commercial market.  From surveying crops on a farm to capturing amazing video from hundreds of feet in the air, pilots have created business from what once was just a hobby.  Farmers use drones to fly around large farms and keep record of crop growth and health from an aerial view.  Not only do drones provide a great view point on crop field but are also very efficient. The drone can capture and record the status of crops a lot faster than a surveyor on foot. Engineers are also using this new technology to affordably surgery land on a very accurate level. Autonomous drones use GPS to fly and survey land, the camera can record coordinates and map as accurately as 3 centimeters from 150 meters in the sky. Large scale mines are using this technology to make their mines safer and more efficient. In the past, mines had to use helicopters to map their land that could cost then 2,000 dollars an hour. With the introduction of aerial mapping from an unmanned drone this cost has been pushed down to just 200 dollars an hour.

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6 Responses to FAA Takes Different Approach to Regulate Commercial Drone Use

  1. ryanwadding says:

    You mention that the public is concerned that drones with cameras may infringe on the privacy rights of individuals. You say that hobbyists counter this argument by saying drones in fact do not violate the privacy of the public. So, how exactly do drones with camera not have the potential to violate the privacy of individuals? Giving no explanation as to why privacy concerns are invalid is not a counterargument. Drones with cameras do have the potential to be misused and I believe we as a community and society do should be concerned. This is not a “misunderstanding” or “a lack of knowledge” as you put it; these concerns are perfectly valid. Drones provide a vehicle for cameras that have the ability to capture pictures or film of areas that maybe should be off limits. Furthermore, how many times have aerial firefighting operations been interrupted by drones? I will tell you, “Twenty-one drones were spotted at the scenes of wildfires nationwide in 2014-2015, and aircraft were grounded six times. And there have been at least two occasions when firefighting aircraft have had to take evasive actions to avert a collision with drones. In (2016) alone, at least 15 unauthorized UAVs have been reported to affect aerial firefighting operations in California and other states, according to the Interior Department.” (CNBC, 2016) You are correct, this is a new type of technology that communities have not dealt with before, therefore having concerns about misuse of drones by operators is not ignorance; it is perfectly reasonable and hobbyists are just going to have to learn how continue their love of flying drones under restrictions put forth by lawmakers. Cited: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/26/feds-turn-up-the-heat-in-the-fight-against-drones-interfering-in-wildfires.html

  2. I really like that you chose to write about this topic as it is one that is bringing to light many issues that have never truly been dealt with before. Sure, privacy has been a hot topic in both past and present times; however, drones have changed the game, to some respect, in regards to the ways in which they are able to capture their subjects. At first glance, flying a drone around is pretty harmless; however, looking into the deeper aspects of it we get into the issue of whether or not it is barging in on the privacy of the individual. While there are regulations to follow in regards to where you can fly and who is able to fly a drone, the implementation of these laws is very much lacking. Speaking from experience, my dad recently bought a drone for his own entertainment and flew it all around the neighborhood and over to family and friends’ houses without them even knowing (weird I know). I think the real issue we run into revolves around the idea that the home is meant to be a place where personal privacy is at its highest or at least left in the control of the person to whom the property belongs to. Normally, we are alerted, to some extent, by the presence of infrastructures or other public developments where the security of the public and/or the security of valued items is at stake that we are probably being monitored. However, in the presence of the home, monitors are generally not foreseen or perhaps even accepted. This leads us to the issue of drones and their ability to infringe on the privacy of the home without any real warning or basis. Many people argue that it just isn’t an issue and disregard the fact that though it may not be an issue currently, perhaps because it is a new and unfamiliar technology, it is nevertheless very possible and very easy to misuse it for purposes that do cross the line of personal privacy.

  3. cvazquez131 says:

    I find the Federal Governments reasoning behind drone regulations pretty humorous. All of a sudden their main concern is the infringing of individual privacy? Give me a break, it’s not like they haven’t been caught doing that a time or two. Besides, if a person wanted to fly their drone into a plane engine I am confident that an FCC regulation would not change their mind. Most of these regulations just complicate the lives of people using drones for everyday purposes. In 2015 a Minnesota man was fined 55,000 dollars for orchestrating an overhead drone photo in which people configured their bodies in the shape of lion to honor the slain Cecil the Lion. I’m not kidding http://dailycaller.com/2016/06/14/the-faa-is-fining-a-man-55000-for-flying-his-drone/ . I do agree that some very basic regulation of drones is necessary, especially regarding flying on public property. However, I do not see any good reason to regulate personal or commercial drone flying on private property. As with all new technology, drones reiterate our dilemma regarding how much power should be afforded to our government.

  4. morgandick says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post! Last semester I actually had the opportunity last semester to work on drone legislation for the State of Arizona. I was a legislative intern with the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and in Arizona municipalities have the ability to regulate airspace under 500 feet. It was really intriguing to see what different types of regulation different cities and towns. For example the Town of Paradise Valley has concerns over privacy because many people fly drones with cameras over resident’s backyards while, the City of Phoenix was more concerned with flight paths because of Sky Harbor Airport. Great post!

  5. cckremer says:

    I am glad you wrote an article about the developing drone regulation issue, because it always seems like something new is changing the discussion in some critical way. I think an issue that is bugging the FAA whenever they make these decisions is not just that it is an issue of personal privacy, but rather it complicates the both the security of airspace and individuals. Many objects that take flight nowadays are built on close margins, meaning that they cannot handle unexpected factors heavily. Sudden wind gusts might cause people to lose control, and stop input to the device, suddenly stopping the drone to the ground, potentially hurting someone on the ground [1]. Sometimes, people do not even know why their drone fails in the first place [2]. Or, someone can maliciously attack that device and have control over some part of that system; such a case has happened even on our military drones, and one has to worry about what could happen in the hobbyist world [3]. In short, I think the FAA is just being overbearing (as per usual) and limiting the rights of people in order to protect the safety of the majority. Whether that’s the right choice politically I do not know, but from an aerospace perspective, it is a lot easier to reduce the chance of an incident occurring by reducing the amount of people capable of even setting up the incident in the first place (like with drones near airports, rockets near any kind of flight path or communications areas, or even rockets in public spaces).

    [1]: http://www.theverge.com/2014/11/13/7205741/i-almost-killed-someone-with-a-drone
    [2]: https://www.engadget.com/2016/06/24/phantom-drone-hit-woman/
    [3]: https://www.wired.com/2011/10/virus-hits-drone-fleet/

  6. pinkfreud96 says:

    The commercial side of drone usage is likely less controversial to Americans than the private/hobbyist use of them. Or further still, the public/government use of them. There have been numerous stories like this one (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/08/65-year-old-woman-takes-out-drone-over-her-virginia-property-with-one-shot/) of a Virginia woman shooting down a hobbyist’s drone that hovered over her private property. Interestingly enough, the aerial intruders did not risk walking onto her property to retrieve the fallen aircraft. That in fact is actually how the FAA defines drones–as personal aircraft. So technically, shooting one down can earn you substantial jail time (up to 20 years) as well as a steep fine, though not a single case of this sort has ever resulted in conviction. This is likely because the judges who have heard these cases well recognize the invasion of privacy that can emerge from, say, using a private drone to hover over another’s private property to spy on a 16-year old girl while she’s sunbathing (http://www.copblock.org/146434/judge-dismisses-charges-on-man-who-shot-down-drone/). I concur with ryanwadding that the concerns of average folk are both legitimate and stem not from ignorance, but a very clear understanding of what drones can be capable of. And with regards to the government use of drones in the domestic context (not talking Predators and Reapers here), arming police forces with drones will be a huge issue in the near future, and already has been in some jurisdictions. They, like the hobbyists, have also encountered incensed private citizens and the bad end of their buck shot. At the core of it, this debate comes down to the essential right of individual privacy–especially when applied to police, i.e., government, drones. Is your backyard no longer a part of your Castle? No longer your own property whereby you ought to be free of surveillance and interference? If the government can survey your yard, peek into your window, and actually have the legal authority to act on information acquired in such a way, then you may as well throw open all doors of your home to tyranny, for they will be marching through them soon enough anyway.

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