Drones Continue to Challenge Lawmakers

Commercial drone flying above a big cityA drone operating over the Lake Fire in California’s San Bernardino National Forest in June caused firefighters to halt combat flying due to the risk of a midair collision. This very real danger could cost expensive air tankers and, more importantly, firefighters’ lives. As a result, the fire expanded and unfortunately gave drone flying some damaging press.

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), otherwise known as drones, are inherently different from manned aircraft in terms of altitude, distance, maintenance, flight time, and operating controls, and mixing them into the aviation community is placing some complex challenges in the hands of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). On Feb. 23, 2015, the FAA released a public notice with regard to UAS and continues an outreach program to spread the word about safe and responsible flying.

Know Before You Fly is an educational campaign founded by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), and the Small UAV Coalition, in partnership with the FAA. It provides information for recreational flyers, businesses, and public entities on how to fly drones safely and responsibly.

Some of the recreational drone-flying safety guidelines include:

  • Flying no higher than 400 feet
  • Keeping your drone in sight at all times
  • No flying within five miles of an airport
  • Avoiding sensitive infrastructure such as power stations

Examples of commercial uses of drones include:

  • Professional real estate or wedding photography
  • Cinematography for film or television
  • Contract photography work for mapping and land surveys

Let’s Fly Wisely, an organization of companies using drones for positive purposes in Wise County, Virginia, has been promoting the use of drones to make package deliveries, including delivering medicine to rural medical clinics.

While stories about unsafe drone flying cause negative press, lawmakers are working to find the best way to balance the needs of individuals, businesses, and media by releasing and promoting drone safety information. Simultaneously, drone flying is making a positive impact in many ways, and it’s important to keep this in perspective as the UAV trend and the opportunities drones pose continue to grow.

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