Regulation of drones by the FAA tops the coverage of drone activity this week. Appearing before the House Subcommittee on Aviation, FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whittaker said that the FAA will finalize its small drone (under 55 lbs) rule sometime in the first half of next year. This much earlier than some previous predictions that the rule would not be finalized until 2017 due to the mountain of public comments. Still, in the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2012, Congress gave the FAA until September, 2015 to finalize the rule. http://1.usa.gov/1FUQabd
In addition, Deputy Administrator Whittaker told the Subcommittee that it would test technology to identify drones flying within five miles of an airport and tracking them back to their operators. Partnering with CACI International, the FAA would use existing technology to identify drones by their radio signals. http://usat.ly/1MhnKch
On the other side of the Capitol, Sen Boxer (D-CA) introduces legislation to make drone offenses federal misdemeanors. http://bit.ly/1P0K63o Called the “Safe Drone Act,” the bill would make it a misdemeanor, subject to a fine and not more than a year in prison, or both, for someone to operate a drone in a restricted area, which is within a 2-mile radius of an airport or within two miles of the outermost perimeter of an ongoing firefighter operation involving the Department of Agriculture or Department of Interior. Sen Boxer said that this bill is in response to the July 17, 2015, incident on I-15 near El Cajon Pass where firefighting planes were called off because of drones in the area, which allowed a fire to overtake and burn 20 vehicles on I-15.
However, the use for drones continues to mount. As the L.A. Times reported, drones “are providing film and TV viewers a new perspective on the action.” http://lat.ms/1jQPARB While the article reports that less than 10% of all productions use drones, the demand is rapidly growing ever since the FAA gave an exemption for use of drones by the film and television industry. A camera drone and crew “costs as little as $5,000 a day, compared with at least $25,000 a day for a helicopter shoot.