Archive for Monday, June 16, 2014

Drone enthusiasts say FAA needs to update policies

June 16, 2014

— As the popularity of remote-controlled, camera-equipped drones continues to rise, enthusiasts in Wichita say it’s time for the federal government to come up with some common-sense rules that can keep pace with the rapidly evolving technology.

While it’s technically legal to fly a drone in the airspace above a neighbor’s home, flying the same drone around a home to create a real estate listing can land the operator a big fine from the Federal Aviation Administration, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Personal drones — typically 5-pound, remote-controlled devices that look like little helicopters — can cost as little as $1,000 to set up, and their use has been growing exponentially.

One of the FAA’s main concerns about drones is that they could potentially interfere with an already crowded airspace if not properly regulated, said Les Dorr, a spokesman for the agency.

The FAA remains strict on its guidelines. Unmanned aircraft systems such as drones may be legally operated only for hobby or recreational purposes, while all potential commercial operations must have a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and approval from the FAA, Dorr said.

Only two drone models — Boeing and the Insitu Group’s ScanEagle, and AeroVironment’s Puma — are certified to operate commercially. Both models previously operated only in Arctic regions, but on Tuesday the FAA granted approval for BP to use the Puma in Alaska.

Both models cost in the tens of thousands of dollars and look more like a standard airplane than a quadricopter.

In its 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, Congress mandated the agency have a plan for the “safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems” into the national airspace by Sept. 30, 2015.

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