To Drone or not to Drone

Is a model airplane an aircraft? The FAA is saying yes lately, appealing a ruling by a National Transportation Safety Board administrative law judge. The ruling in question dealt with the case of a man in Charlottesville, Va. who used a 56-inch wingspan radio controlled plane, in essence a drone, to film a commercial. He was charged with operating the aircraft too close to pedestrians. Ridiculous you say? Perhaps not, in view of the fact that there have been 25 near misses between drones and commercial planes, around airports in the U.S. since June 1st. Another near collision with an airliner recently occurred near London England. So the FAA is planning to put restrictions in place that will severely limit the operation of drones, essentially cutting off any opportunities for their commercial use. Restricting them to less than 400 feet of altitude and perhaps requiring visual contact between the drone and the operator would make it impossible to use them for any other than, well, model-aircraft style outings at your local private airport, or go-cart track, on a Saturday morning.

So who is doing the complaining? Why a new lobby group, just minted a few short months ago. That would be the SUAV Coalition or Small UAV Coalition or the Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Coalition. It's 2 most prominent members are Amazon, who seems to be its de facto leader, and Google. Amazon is threatening to take its research out of the country to get around current and pending FAA restrictions What Google is planning to do with a potential mini Air Fleet is an interesting question but surveillance for a profit is likely the goal. Can the twain meet? Can we have a brave new world of fleets of drones aiding all sorts of civil and commercial processes without meaning one flies into the engine of that plane flying Grandma home for Thanksgiving? Clearly the technology is available, and clearly it is firmly in military hands and will remain so for at least a number of years. How much will be released for commercial use is an unknown for now, so the question is can companies like Amazon come up with a fail safe system to operate drones? And what amount of regulation from the FAA will be necessary to make sure commercial flights are not endangered? This seems to be a case where safety will predominate and the folks at SUAV will have to be patient before they can begin to realize their ambitions in a meaningful way.

Posted by Keeley at December 15, 2014 6:05 PM
Comment #386666

But if the thing flies low over my property, can I shoot it with my shotgun?

Posted by: C&J at December 15, 2014 10:43 PM
Comment #386676

Depends on how you implement your version of gun control.

Posted by: Weary Willie at December 16, 2014 1:00 PM
Comment #386682

How about just throwing rocks. I know I would have done that when I was a teenager and I expect I might still do it today given the opportunity.

Posted by: C&J at December 16, 2014 2:59 PM
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