Drones Once Again Top Aviation News

Sen Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that he would introduce a bill that would force drone manufacturers to implement technology that would keep “unmanned aerial vehicles” (#UAV) or “unmanned aerial systems” (#UAS) or “drones” as everyone else calls them away from airports and major events and places with large gatherings of people.  This concept, called #geo-fencing, would keep drones from operating within two miles of an airport or above 500 feet.  http://cbsloc.al/1M5vEUa  Nothing, however, about the privacy issues raised by drone use.  The collision-risk problem with drones was also the subject of an opinion piece in the Grand Forks Herald which calls for stricter enforcement of the current regulations without going as far as mandating geo-fencing. http://bit.ly/1Oqw9KR

Enforcement was also on the minds of people in North Carolina, where the Winston-Salem Journal reported that education and enforcement are the key to safe drone use. http://bit.ly/1LsmDBH In an article appearing in the Winston-Salem Journal, Richard Hanson, the government and regulatory affairs director at the Academy of Model Aeronautics, said that because anyone can purchase a drone and “point it in the direction you want to take the picture, with no information about where it may be appropriate or not appropriate to fly” there needs to be a bigger push to educate these buyers.  In addition, Mr. Hanson says that the FAA should be a “little more aggressive, a little more proactive in enforcing existing regulations.”  Perhaps memories of the Pirker case are still running through the FAA’s mind.  Enforcement does take place.  For example, a University of Kentucky law student was charged with wanton endangerment after a drone he was flying crashed into the campus’ crowded stadium.  The penalty carries up to 12 months in jail.  http://bit.ly/1J81smI  This comes on the heels of a drone crash at the U.S. Open tennis match in New York.  Moreover, a study by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, claims that only a small fraction of the reported “close calls” between commercial aircraft and drones were “near misses,” and only 10 required evasive action.  http://usat.ly/1EYkK2U

Local control was on the mind of Sid Salter in an opinion piece in Mississippi where the state legislature has made it a felony to use UAS technology to eavesdrop on people.  http://bit.ly/1VXWPF4  That being said, Mr. Salter stated that “as states carve out their own regulations, federal regulations become paramount” and he believes that the FAA’s selection of Mississippi State University to operate a new “National Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems” will enhance Mississippi’s position in the development of future UAS rules and regulations.  Where does the federal government’s mandate end and local control begin?  That is the question that Carlisle, PA was asking about police use of drones.  That raised further questions about local control of drones in light of the proposed FAA regulations.  http://bit.ly/1QAB8I0  In a phys.org piece on police use of drones, the question of armed drones used by police is discussed.  As the article points out, “the specter of armed drones surfaced with a law passed in North Dakota last month that allows police to equip the aircraft with teargas.”  http://bit.ly/1NrUYW7  At least 60 police forces across the country have applied for drone certification.  The article explains that “peeping tom” drones are just the tip of the iceberg, “[w]ithout proper regulation, drones equipped with facial recognition software, infrared technology and speakers capable of monitoring personal conversations would cause unprecedented invasions of our privacy rights.”

From “News of the Weird” comes this gem: the FAA granted an application to fly a paper airplane.  The FAA granted a Section 333 Exemption to Peter Sachs fly his powered paper airplane to “conduct aerial photography and videography.” As with all Section 333 Exemption in order to fly the paper airplane commercially – i.e., for money – he would have to hire a pilot with at least an FAA sport pilot license.  As Sachs stated: “[w]ith this grant, the FAA has abandoned all logic and sensibility by declaring that a 19-gram paper airplane is legally an ‘aircraft.’”  http://onforb.es/1gmwGzy

Meanwhile, businesses continue to come up with new and innovative ways to use drones.  At the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association meeting in Scottsdale, AZ, a presentation was given on how unmanned aerial systems could retail facilities maintenance departments do their jobs more safely and less expensively.  http://bit.ly/1URc1Bw Here is an article that sort of wraps up some of the civilian uses of drones. http://bit.ly/1NrXyLN

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