Friday, November 28, 2014

The FAA and Quadcopters/Drones

Recently, the FAA (USA aviation regulator) drafted some new rules on drones, which are unfortunately not very good.  The proposed rules say that anyone who commercially flies a drone needs to have a pilot's license.  Commercial drones today are mostly used by photographers for wedding pictures, real estate ads and by film makers.  In future, they might be used for crop surveying, search and rescue, and police work.

The FAA does need some rules to ensure that people don't fly drones near planes, over crowds of people, or near secure areas.  But what is the point of requiring a pilots license?

On the one hand, pilots know the rules of airspace use, and might be more cautious and careful.

On the other hand:

  1. There is no evidence that flying a full size plane makes you a good drone pilot.  In a plane, you fly a large vehicle using a stick, pedals, and gauges and land and takeoff from a well-managed airport.  A drone is flow from the ground almost anywhere using a little box with joysticks.
  2. It is expensive to get a pilot's license, and I am sure that wedding photographers have better uses for their cash and will likely not get a license.
It would be a lot smarter to have rules for commercial drones like this:
  1. you have to pass a test showing you can fly a drone (simulators are available for the FAA to test this)
  2. you know the rules through a written test
  3. the FAA checks your background - no criminals, no terrorists, etc.
  4. your drone is registered and carries a unique tag so it can be identified as being registered
  5. you carry your FAA license with you when operating your drone
  6. some basic rules should be written for hobbyists and commercial operators saying no drones over crowds, no drones over 200 feet within 2 miles of an airport, no drones in airspace designated as secure like over the White House, etc.

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