As unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – or “drones” – become smaller, cheaper and easier to fly, more and more drones can be seen buzzing through the skies. Drones have also found a hot spot within the commercial marketplace with uses for delivery, surveillance and filming. This increase has pushed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop new drone rules with many in the commercial marketplace keeping their fingers crossed for open skies. Unfortunately, some of the proposed regulations may be more restrictive than some would hope and may take a while to get approved.
The FAA originally announced a September-2015 deadline for set of rules and regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles. However, due to a missed deadline back in August, the 2015 deadline isn’t very realistic.
“The consensus of opinion is the integration of unmanned systems will likely slip from the mandated deadline until 2017 or even later,” said Gerald Dillingham, the GAO’s director of civil aviation.
As the FAA works to layout a concrete set of rules, companies like Tier10 could be affected by the final determination. This year, Tier10 has experimented with and leveraged the use of UAVs with an attached camera to produce high-quality footage. Tier10 currently owns a custom-built octocopter rig – a DSLR Pros DJI S1000 Spreading Wings with Dual Operator Setup and a Panasonic GH4 camera, capable of shooting 4k.
The proposed regulations will apply to all drones under 55 lbs. and will require pilot and aircraft certification; limit flights to 400 feet and below and within the operator’s line of sight; and during daylight hours, according to The Wall Street Journal. Current rules restrict UAV pilots from flying over 400 feet, near airports and out of the pilot’s line of sight.
One of the biggest turn-offs some are finding is that the proposed regulations may be applied more heavily for those using their drones for commercial purposes, such as photography and videography, compared to recreational users.
Scott Rodgers, Tier10’s chief creative officer, said, “Commercially, I have a business and I am relying on this, so I wouldn’t risk losing [the drone] completely or being reckless with it.”
Although most of the regulations seem sensible enough, many are also turned off by the idea that operator certification will likely require several hours of manned aircraft training and that all drones under 55 lbs. will have to abide by these rules – even those barely weighing in at 3 lbs. which could be considered less of a threat compared to larger drones.
“How can you tell someone that to fly their $600 craft that they’d have to pay upwards of $8,000 and fly an actual aircraft for more than 40 hours?” said Rodgers. “Having gone through the process of getting a captain’s license for boats, if I have to fly an aircraft to be able to fly something that is battery-powered, then I’ll just fly an aircraft.”
In its rule-making process, the FAA is considering the interests and concerns of airline pilots and those using drones for commercial purposes, said Michael Huerta, FAA’s lead administrator. According to a statement, the agency is working to “integrate unmanned aircraft into the busiest, most complex airspace system in the world” while maintaining its mission to protect Americans on the ground and in the air.
“I think the government is doing great PR to move people away from drones and to market their new regulations,” said Rodgers. “In reality, this will be a long process and larger companies will lobby against strict drone rules. I think the only way to regulate [drone usage] is to regulate the companies that are making the devices.”
Rodgers also suggested the use of transponders, which are used by all commercial aircraft. The transponder automatically transmits a four-digit code when the aircraft receives a radio signal sent by radar. The unique code provides the plane’s identity and helps radar stations establish the direction and speed of the aircraft.
When asked if it were even possible to enforce drone rules, Dillingham said it would be “a difficult or almost impossible task.”
“The FAA already has so many calls on its resources. I think we have to worry about education for the public, and when they see individuals being fined, that’ll be one of the incentives [not to break the law,]” said Dillingham.
An open-forum period will follow the release where the public can provide their feedback to the agency. Under these circumstances, finalized regulations may not come around for the next couple years.
Wall Street Journal