UAV036 No Fly Zones for UAVs

DJI: No FLY Zones

Phantom firmware update addresses safety concerns, FAA files appeal brief in Trappy case, a search and rescue team fights to use quadcopters, 33 organizations appeal to the FAA, machine guns versus drones, Google beats out Facebook for atmospheric satellites, and a drone pilot is charged with a felony.

The News:

Chinese manufacturer programs Phantom drones with no-fly zones to protect Australian airports

DJI Innovations is introducing a firmware update to the Phantom 2 quadcopter “to increase flight safety and prevent accidental flights” in around 350 “No Fly Zones” world-wide. The update downloads a global GPS database of restricted locations. If the Phantom has a sufficient GPS signal, it will not fly into the restricted area.

The airport list includes Category A for large international airports with a 5 mile safety zone. In the first 1.5 mile radius, you will be unable to take off. From 1.5 miles to 5 miles from the airport, there is an increasing height limitation – 35 feet at 1.5 miles to 400 feet at 5 miles.

Category B features a 0.6 mile safety zone radius, and is intended for smaller airports. Inside that zone, you will be unable to take off.

If you approach a safety zone from outside the radius, you receive a warning. If you accidentally fly into a safety zone, and then your Phantom acquires a GPS signal the Phantom lands immediately inside the no-takeoff area, and descends to the specified maximum height in the height-restricted area.

FAA Files Appeal Brief In Closely-Watched Drone Pilot Case

The FAA has filed its appeal brief in their case against Raphael Pirker, which they lost in a ruling by an NTSB judge. Two issues are raised by the FAA in the brief:

1. The judge erred in determining that Pirker’s small drone was not an “aircraft,” as defined by the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs).

2. The judge erred in determining that the small drone’s operation was not subject to the FARs.

Search teams that rely on drones run afoul of FAA

The Vernon Parish, Louisiana Sheriff’s Office asked Texas EquuSearch for help in finding the missing James Stephens, and they put out a call for searchers on foot and ATV.

The group has used small drones for searches since 2005, and has located the bodies of 11 missing persons. Texas EquuSearch founder Tim Miller, in referring to the FAA prohibition said, “We’ll go by some of their rules, but certainly not all of them. There is a possibility he (Stephens) could be still be alive out there, so yes we’re going to use it.”

AMA and AUVSI lead 33 organizations in calling on FAA to expedite rulemaking for Unmanned Aircraft Systems [PDF]

The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), and 31 other organizations sent a letter to the FAA “encouraging the agency to expedite the rulemaking process for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations in the U.S. airspace. The letter also calls on the FAA to allow the limited use of small UAS for commercial purposes before the final rulemaking is completed.”

The letter states, “The time for resolution has come, and we cannot afford any further delays. The technology is advancing faster than the regulations to govern it. While the FAA has indicated its intention to appeal the Pirker decision to the full National Transportation Safety Board, we strongly encourage the FAA to simultaneously expedite its small UAS rulemaking and issue notice and public comment as soon as possible.”

Stunning video of machine guns shooting at target drones shows how difficult hitting a remotely piloted aircraft can be

When David Cenciotti posted images in The Aviationist of a small drone believed to be used by the U.S. Army in Pakistan and Iraq, some thought these UAVs would be an easy target for small arms fire. So a group at a shooting range in Arizona thought they’d test the theory with automatic weapons. They weren’t very successful.

Google Grabs Drone Company and Google Bought a Drone Company, Which Isn’t At All Creepy, Nope

We thought solar-powered UAV-maker Titan Aerospace was getting bought by Facebook. We were wrong and it now looks like Google is picking them up.

Titan UAVs can stay aloft for 5 years, making them a good platform to deliver Internet access to remote locations. Google already has its “Project Loon” which is balloon-based. And the Titan “atmospheric satellites” might also support Google Maps.

Police: Ohio Man’s Drone Hindered Medical Chopper

A hobbyist who flew his $4,000 hexacopter over a crash scene has been charged with a felony. Authorities say he was told to stand down but did not when a medical helicopter was about to land. He’s facing a felony charge of obstructing official business, and misdemeanor charges of misconduct at an emergency and disorderly conduct.

Video of the Week: Prototype Quadrotor with Machine Gun

Mentioned:

UAV035 Listening to You!

X-47B UCAS

The X-47B UCAS-D team wins the Collier Trophy, drones and Bluefins and the search for Malaysia Flight 370, the UK CAA convicts a drone pilot, and listener feedback.

The News:

Legendary Collier Trophy Awarded to X-47B Team

The 2013 Robert J. Collier Trophy has been awarded to the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) team by the National Aeronautic Association. The team was selected for “developing and demonstrating the first unmanned, autonomous air system operating from an aircraft carrier.”

How Drones Could Have Helped Find Malaysia Air Flight 370

UAVs could be used more extensively for search and rescue operations. We have aircraft like the AeroVironment Global Observer, Lockheed Martin’s High Altitude Airship, and Boeing’s Phantom Eye. Hopefully someday soon these and others could be used for missions like the search for MH 370.

Boston-Area Underwater Robot To Aid Search For Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

The Bluefin-21 from Bluefin Robotics is an 18 foot autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUV, that uses side-scan sonars to create a mosaic image, like an ultrasound.

UK’s first drone conviction will bankrupt me, says Cumbrian man

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) prosecuted a man for the dangerous and illegal flying an unmanned aircraft near a nuclear submarine testing facility.

From Listener Feedback:

‘River of blood’ after drone ‘hits’ Australian athlete
Triathlete injured as drone filming race falls to ground
Triathlete injured in drone incident
CASA investigating Geraldton drone incident

A UAV injures an athlete, but what really happened?

Lehmann Aviation

The LA100 is called a flying platform for GoPro users. It’s RTF, fixed wing, fully autonomous, with communications via WiFi, and a five minute flight time.

E-Waste Quadcopter Lifts Your Spirits While Keeping Costs Down

A quadcopter made out of junk: plywood, 140mm PC fans over-driven to 15,000 RPM by a 24V Dewalt cordless tool battery. Its controlled by an Arduino running MultiWii control software using sensors from a Nintendo Wii remote. Its dated April 1, but a fun idea nonetheless.

Drones on ice

After trials in Japan, a DJI Phantom and GoPro are being used to study sea ice and climate change.

Drones Over Dolphin Stampede and Whales off Dana Point and Maui

Great aerial video.

Drone Saves Puppy Trapped In Stony Creek Swamp

A one year old beagle got himself lost in the cattails of a muddy swamp in Connecticut. He couldn’t be located until a fire department drone woke him up, and his barking led rescuers to the dog. This is the same fire department that used a DJI Phantom in the quarry fire in January.

UAV User Groups - See the Thirty Thousand Feet UAV page for some drone user groups. Send us yours if its not listed.

Game of Drones

Mounting a paintball gun. (Don’t try this at home.)

FAA Unswayed by Do-Good Drones

Texas EquuSearch fights back.

Mentioned:

Become a Pilot Family Day and Aviation Display – The annual Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum event at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Bring your family for a great day, and meet Max and David. June 14, 2014.

UAV034 Center of Excellence for UAS

Block Island Rural Delivery Service

An FAA Center of Excellence for UAS, 3D printing a drone, the industry pressures FAA on UAS regs, drone privacy, a thought-controlled quadcopter, drones used for and against hunters, anti-drone legislation, Korean drones, and who needs drones when you have gulls?

The News:

Notice of Intent to Establish the FAA Center of Excellence (COE) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

Within the next year, the FAA intends to competitively select a Center of Excellence for UAS. The Center will conduct UAS related research, education, and training. It will also work with university partners on issues of mutual interest and concern.

Following the Notice of Intent, the FAA will issue a Draft Solicitation for public comment, hold a public meeting in May, and issue awards within “the next year.”

Engineers print a functioning 1.5m-wide prototype unmanned aerial vehicle

Additive manufacturing, popularly known as 3D printing, has been used by the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield to build a UAV. The polymer UAV made of nine parts that snap together. It’s thought to be an example of a low cost craft that could be built “on demand.”

Aerospace, Consumer Tech Lobbies Join Forces to Push for Domestic Drone Regulations

The aerospace and the consumer electronics industries are teaming up to pressure the FAA into moving quickly to define the regulations governing UAS operations.

Mansfield woman says missing drone “freaked me out”

An 18-year old student with hopes of becoming a filmmaker was flying his DJI Phantom when some kind of failure occurred. It went down around some homes, but couldn’t be found after a 2-hour search. So he put fliers on doors, hoping someone would find the Phantom. One woman found the flier and contacted the police, the mayors office, and even State officials fearing she was being spied on.

UNG students test drones to be controlled by thoughts

In a project funded through the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, the University of North Georgia is using brain impulses to control a small quadcopter. Using an electroencephalogram-sensor headset, students are experimenting with control by thoughts without actually moving.

Alaska bans hunters from using drones

The Alaska Board of Game has wants to ban hunters from using drones to track animals. It’s already illegal there to use manned aircraft to spot game and kill them on the same day.

Colorado Bans the Use of Drones in Hunting

Alaska is not alone in this. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission banned unmanned aircraft “from hunting, scouting, and any other pursuit involved in the taking of wildlife.”

States Mulling Legislation to Ban Drones

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is pushing states to take up legislation that protects “hunters, anglers and trappers from harassment by unmanned, aerial drones while exercising their legal right to pursue and take wildlife.”

Editorial: Bill imposes pre-emptive limits on promising technology

The Washington State Legislature has passed anti-drone House Bill 2789, which seeks to address privacy concerns. This “speculative lawmaking” looks at negative uses of drones, and not positive ones. The Bill does look for transparency and appropriate legal approval to collect personal information via drones.

South Korea investigates two suspected North Korean drones

As North and South Korea recently exchanged hostilities, some blue drones equipped with cameras crashed in South Korea.

Gull drones to assist island deliveries

Under the concept from Block Island called B.I.R.D.S. (Block Island Rural Delivery Service), restaurants and stores on the island will use gulls to deliver food and merchandise. Gull training is underway now.

Video of the Week:

Tooth Extraction by Drone?

Mentioned:

 

UAV033 Sharing the Sky

Sensefly eBee

A near miss between a UAV and a crop duster, a new social network for the multi-rotor community, UAVs that survey cemeteries, no beer delivery by drone in the UK, and a red hot video of the week.

The News:

Victorian mine drone in near miss with aircraft

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued a final report that says that a Sensefly eBee 178 UAV came within about 100m horizontally and up to 70m vertically from an Ayres S2R crop duster. The ATSB rated this incident, which occurred in September, 2013, as serious. The eBee was flying a four-hour photogrammetric site survey mission over an unused mine.

Drone and Rescue Chopper Almost Collide as Drone Crashes Mount

The ATSB is investigating the incident.

Social Network for the Multi-Rotor Community in Beta Test Phase

DronedUp.com is a new social network for the multi-rotor community. You can contribute to forums and upload your photos and videos. It lists UAV groups and there is a section for pilot reviews. DronedUp also allows the creation of “pages” for content that centers around a specific topic or company. It’s free to join.

UAS Mapping of Cemeteries in the Czech Republic

Czech unmanned aerial systems company UPVISION, and the Brno City Hall, used a hexacopter and a fixed wing UAV to capture images of cemeteries. They’ve put the data into a GIS system which allows them to administrator city cemeteries.

Beer today, gone tomorrow: regulator bans booze drones

As we previously reported, the folks at Lakemaid Beer were told by the FAA that they could not commence operations to deliver beer to ice fishermen in Minnesota by drone. But what about elsewhere? In the UK, UAVs are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority CAA), under articles 166 and 167 of the Air Navigation Order 2009.

North Carolina lawmakers consider creating board to govern drone use

The North Carolina Office of the Chief Information Officer has recommended that a UAS Governance Board be created to develop UAS policy and create standards for their use and operation. Also that they approve or deny requests for drone use.

Video of the Week:

Dji Phantom flies into Volcano, sent by Todd.

Mentioned:

UAV032 Taking Autism to the Sky

Connor with Hex

Paul Braun and Dan Frye tell us about Taking Autism to the Sky (TATTS) where children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) build and fly a small UAS. This program helps the children build confidence, gives them world perspectives, and develops interest and ability in skill sets that may help them eventually find and hold productive jobs. With April being Autism Awareness month, this is a timely conversation.

Paul and Dan work for Continental Mapping Consultants, Inc., who create authoritative geospatial data solutions.

The News:

Students using drones to learn high tech jobs (STEM)

Using UAS software from Analytical Graphics Inc., students at Ohio’s Greenon High School are preparing for modeling and simulation career opportunities. The STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is designed to expose students to today’s in-demand skills.

Photos:

Above - Connor with the Hex. Below - Kids watching flight simulator, and kids observing first aerial footage.

Kids watching flight simulator

Kids observing first aerial footage

UAV031 The Wild Wild West

ConservationDrones.org test flies 3D Robotics Y6

An analysis of the Raphael Pirker v FAA appeal, an offensive quadcopter and conservationists look to utilize UAVs.

The News:

FAA To Appeal NTSB Finding On UAS Case

An NTSB Administrative Law Judge dismissed the charges against a UAV pilot for flying a commercial mission, but the FAA intends to appeal the decision. We talk about what that means to the sUAS industry and where the appeal goes next.

SXSW 2014: Chaotic Moon Demonstrates CUPID, a Drone That Can Tase You

The C.U.P.I.D. hexacopter (Chaotic Unmanned Personal Intercept Drone) carries a gun that can shoot you with barbed Taser darts and zap you with 80,000 volts.

Of UAS and Cranes: UAS Technology Aids California Bird Conservation

Tracking bird populations is an important part of wildlife study but observing, recording, and counting birds can be very difficult. That’s where UAVs come in. ConservationDrones.org looks to exploit the potential of UAVs for conservation-related applications worldwide.

Video of the Week:

World’s Most Insane Rope Swing Ever!!! – Canyon Cliff Jump, but especially see Behind The Scenes – Insane Canyon Rope Swing for more on the octocopter used to film this.

Mentioned:

UAV030 FAA v. Pirker – Administrative Law Judge Decision

Audio transcript of NTSB Docket CP-217, FAA v. Raphael Pirker.

We reported In Episode 29 that a decision had been rendered in the case of the FAA v. Raphael Pirker, also known as Trappy in the sUAS community.

The FAA claimed that Pirker flew a Ritewing Zephyr, which they considered to be a UAS, as a commercial operation. Furthermore, that in so doing, Pirker endangered life and property. The FAA fined Pirker US$10,000.

Pirker appealed, and the NTSB Administrative Law Judge dismissed the charges on March 6, 2014.

Some of the press, as well as some UAS enthusiasts, proclaimed that this decision now lets commercial drone operations begin. We at The UAV Digest continue to believed that it’s a little premature to draw that conclusion.

There are many unanswered questions surrounding this issue, and there is an appeal process which the FAA has initiated.

We expect that we’ll be following this story and exploring the issues for quite some time. We began by studying the judge’s Decisional Order, NTSB Docket CP-217.

What we’ve done in this episode, as a first step, is create an audio transcript of the Docket.

We’ll present our analysis of the decision next time.

UAV029 Delivering the Internet via UAV

Titan Aerospace

Facebook buys a drone company, having enough communications and data bandwidth, an international UAV test consortium announced, UAV training at Roswell, busting FAA myths about UAVs, FAA authority to regulate UAS questioned, privacy questions flare down under, and Russia building Israeli UAVs.

Breaking news: Commercial Drones Are Completely Legal, a Federal Judge Ruled

The News:

Facebook Follows Amazon, Google Into Drones With $60 Million Purchase

Facebook is reportedly purchasing Titan Aerospace for $60 Million. Titan Aerospace makes high altitude solar-powered UAV’s that they refer to as persistent solar atmospheric satellites.™

Facebook is a partner in Internet.org, along with Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera and Qualcomm. Their objective is to bring everyone in the world with a smartphone into the “knowledge economy” by making Internet services 100 times more affordable.

Accomplishing that means reducing the volume of data served by ten times, and reducing the cost to serve that data by ten times. That’s where Titan comes in.

Drones seen driving spectrum sharing technologies

We talk a lot about the UAS regulations the FAA needs to establish, but there is something else that has to be figured out. All those military and commercial UAVs slated to cloud our skies need com links, and that means enough spectrum has to be available.

International Consortium of Aeronautical Test Sites For UAVs Announced In Quebec

An International Consortium of Aeronautical Test Sites has been created to share information on operational safety, flight regulations, and operational experiences.

This is intended to enable development, testing, and certification of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). The Consortium also looks to support creation of international standards for UAS/RPAS construction. Other centers are expected to join the Consortium.

The Consortium was announced by the UAV test and service centre (CESA) in France, the Oklahoma State University – University Multispectral Laboratories, the National Aeronautical Centre in Wales, and the Unmanned Aerial System Centre of Excellence in Quebec, Canada.

Roswell selected as drone plane training center

Strategic Aerospace International is setting up a drone pilot training center in Roswell, New Mexico, starting with 30 Air Force academy graduates in a three month program. SAI has the curriculum at 48 colleges and universities, but needs the airspace to fly the UAVs. They’ll use the Northrop Grumman SandShark UAS.

Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft

The FAA wants to dispel some of what they consider to be “misconceptions and misinformation” about UAS regulations. Things like control of airspace, what commercial flights are allowable, and can the FAA police all this? So they’ve published a list of seven myths and the “real” facts.

Myth #1: The FAA doesn’t control airspace below 400 feet
Fact: They do.

Myth #2: Commercial UAS flights are OK if I’m over private property and stay below 400’.
Fact: A 2007 Federal Register notice says no.

Myth #3: Commercial UAS operations are a “gray area” in FAA regulations.
Fact: There is no gray.

Myth #4: There are too many commercial UAS operations for the FAA to stop.
Fact: The FAA is watching and has appropriate enforcement tools

Myth #5: Commercial UAS operations will be OK after September 30, 2015.
Fact: Congress mandated that the FAA come up with a safe integration plan by that date. Regulations, policies, and standards will come incrementally.

Myth #6: The FAA is lagging behind other countries in approving commercial drones.
Fact: The U.S. is not like the rest of the world. We have a very busy airspace and we need to get this right.

Myth #7: The FAA predicts as many as 30,000 drones by 2030.
Fact: That’s an old outdated number. Now the FAA estimates 7,500 sUAS by 2018

Free the Beer Drones: Maybe the FAA doesn’t have the authority to regulate unmanned aerial vehicles.

The author believes the U.S. Code and regulations that give the FAA authority, do not define UAVs, so they have no authority. And even if the FAA does have authority, it has not published the documents required to regulate UAVs. Regulatory and statutory law requires public scrutiny and input, and the FAA hasn’t done that.

AFP using drones to investigate major crime as questions raised over privacy

A parliamentary inquiry is looking at drones and their use by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The AFP maintains use has been limited, like at crime scenes, and admits that covert surveillance would require a warrant. But the Office of the Privacy Commissioner says it has been getting inquiries from the public about the use of drones.

Warplanes: Russia Builds Israeli UAV

After seven years of negotiations and trials, Russia has begun production under license of the Israeli Searcher 2 UAV.

Video of the Week:

Autonomous drones flock like birds

Mentioned:

Williams Foundation calls for fast-tracked UAVs

 

UAV028 The Size of the UAV Market

ARES

The size of the global UAV market, more on the FAA losing the drone war, a device that tries to warn you about drones overhead, ignorant politicians passing drone laws, a military UAV providing cargo lift, police use a quadcopter in a murder investigation, and other police shut down a journalist.

The News:

Small UAV Market Worth $582.2 Million by 2019

MarketsandMarkets published Small UAV Market Global Forecast, 2014 – 2019 that projects the small UAV market will grow to $582.2 million over a six year time period. This represents a global compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.7 percent.

FAA risks losing drone war

sUAS usage is growing in the face of relatively low multi-copter prices, growing awareness of drones, and more and more creative uses. While the FAA tries to control the situation, some people in the U.S. liken this to the Wild West. The FAA wants to get this emerging technology right and keep the aviation system safe. “We expect to publish the small UAS proposed rule for public comment later this year.”

DroneShield warns of low-flying UAVs with 18 nations demanding the device

The crowd-funded DroneShield is a device that let’s you know when a drone is nearby. Intended to be a privacy protection device, DroneShield uses a sensitive microphone and an inexpensive Raspberry Pi computer to listen for the audio signature of a drone.

My view: The hysteria over the domestic use of drones

Legislating technology can be a bit dicey. Often the legislators have a poor grasp of the technology. That’s not stopping States in the U.S. from introducing bills aiming to regulate UAVs.

ARES Aims to Provide More Front-line Units with Mission-tailored VTOL Capabilities

Ground-based transportation can be difficult for the military in many situations. The Transformer program from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) proposed a UAV as a solution. The Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) would use an unmanned VTOL aircraft to move supplies.

In a first, Tamil Nadu police use UAV in murder probe

In what is thought to be the first such use of a UAV in India, police used a quadcopter in a murder investigation. They flew it over a brush-covered crime scene that was otherwise inaccessible. Besides searching for evidence, they intended to create a 3D image of the crime scene.

Lawsuit Filed In Connecticut By Journalist Over UAV Use

A journalist claims the Hartford Connecticut police prevented him from using his UAV to take pictures of an automobile crash scene. The police say he was interfering with their investigation. He says the police violated his First Amendment right to free expression, and his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures. A suit has been filed in U.S. District Court.

Videos of the Week:

DJI Phantom Chasing Florida Powerboats Club
and
Netflix Drone to Home

 

UAV027 Policing UAS Use

Elbit Systems Hermes 900

A DJI Phantom watches baseball spring training, FAA policing UAS usage, Canada wants to buy drones, so does the Russian military, and Korea seeks to be a UAS supplier.

The News:

Nationals using aerial drone to record footage of spring training

The Washington Nationals baseball team is observing spring training through the eyes of a GoPro mounted on a DJI Phantom. They say they’ll also use aerial footage on the scoreboard for games.

Runaway Drones Map Land, Film ‘Wolf,’ Knock Down People, as FAA Gives Chase

The FAA takes a dim view of UAVs and has notified many operators to cease operations. Some people are ignorant of the FAA policy. Others are aware but ignore it. Even others believe their activities are allowable. But is it even possible for the FAA to police the use of UAVs?

Heron, Reaper and Hermes 900 Compete for Canada’s Arctic mission

Canada wants an an advanced system for operation in the Arctic. Under consideration are the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron unmanned air system, General Atomics Reaper, and Elbit Systems Hermes 900.

Russian Defense Ministry Unveils $9B UAV Program
Russia delays testing of UAE’s United 40 Block 5 UAV

The Russian military operates 500 drones, and they expect to spend 320 billion rubles (US $9 billion) by 2020 for more. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a big supporter of UAVs and believes Russia needs to develop combat and reconnaissance variants.

Singapore Airshow 2014: KAI promotes Devil Killer UAV as maritime weapon

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is marketing the “Devil Killer” internationally to acquire a first customer that will put the UAV into production. Intended to loiter above potential targets, this “tactical suicide combat UAV” would be operator-guided to the target, crash into the target, and detonate its 2 kg payload.

Video of the Week:

Building Tensile Structures with Flying Machines - Quadcopters with spools of rope weave tensile structures. (Submitted by Colin Sweetman.)

FAA and the UAVs - An opinion piece by Tim Trott

Which of these photos is “legal”? Which one represents an illegal “commercial use” of a UAV? 

Which of these photos is legal

Was the UAV controlled by a hobbyist or a commercial photographer? Does one represent more safety than the other? Obviously both are the same picture, and that is exactly the point. (And it is NOT for sale).

The FAA’s current approach to the UAV revolution, and it is a revolution, is like catching the tiger by the tail, and the FAA only plans to catch up with the tiger ….in a few years. Or so.

That was demonstrated in a recent survey report that found some people who claimed they didn’t know anything about the FAA’s position and others who were unconcerned or even defiant. Some of those enjoying “unregulated” hobby use of UAVs brag about how high and far they can fly, clearly outside of the FAA’s “recommendation” for visual line of sight under 400 feet. Airline and helicopter pilots continue to express serious safety concerns, while comments on the other side tend to minimize any real dangers and the unlikely event of an encounter between a UAV and a commercial aircraft… even in the face of reports of several “close calls” reported by pilots. None of this will improve with time.

In the meantime, don’t look for any mention of the FAA anywhere on web sites of the manufacturers or companies selling UAVs. My own communication with B&H Photo, a well respected professional photography store, gave clear indication that they have no interest or any intention of including anything about any restrictions in the US, while describing their products as “Designed for professional photography”.

Of course not! A caution could affect sales to people like me who learned about the FAA’s unwritten rules against “professional use” only AFTER my purchase arrived. They did offer a refund, but would still not consider or discuss a caution message on the web site.

FAA staff members are apparently spending a lot of time scanning you tube channels and web sites looking for “commercial” users of UAVs and sending out random warnings and a few Cease and Desist orders. It would be a much less daunting task to find the companies SELLING them and request that they include logical safety precautions either packed with the products or sent emails to those who have already purchased them. However, there remains the untenable distinction between commercial and hobby use.

While commercial users, it could be argued, might be more concerned about being liable for damages, the hobbyist is thinking more about enjoying the sport of flying. But they both need to stay out of air traffic lanes, stay below 400 ft, and exercise reasonable caution with regard to public safety.

There is no logical basis for the restriction against commercial use. Hobbyist or commercial, either way the operator can cause damages or injuries. The FAA’s position has done little to affect the explosion in UAVs being used.

My sneaking suspicion is that the FAA’s hesitation is less about safety and more about UAV’s threat to the manned aerial photography business.

There is a simple and obvious solution to this situation and it is this:

The FAA could and should IMMEDIATLY provide for LIMITED INTERIM registration for all UAVs, defining the 400 ft stipulation, cautions against flying over people and so on. The FAA should also provide the guidelines to retailers selling to US citizens, requesting that the guidelines be included on retailer web sites and distributed by the UAV community.

That’s the ONLY logical solution and there is no good reason to wait until 2015 and hundreds of reasons not to wait being sold every month.

The use of UAVs will continue to grow. Waiting until there are many more thousands of them in the air years from now is not a logical course for the FAA. The FAA needs to face the fact that the bird is already out of the nest. So to speak.

Tim Trott