RULES FOR DRONES

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People are idiots and when you The FAA is about to release a first
proposal for regulations that would
mostly affect commercial drone
operators . While nobody wants
more rules and regulations, I
actually think it’s about time we
get some clarity as to what
commercial drone operators can
and can’t do. Let’s not forget, even
if you are doing real estate
photography with a small DJI
Phantom drone today, you are
working a legal gray zone. The
specific regulations that have
leaked so far seem rather onerous
(operators must have pilot
certificates, for example), but

a)
these are only rumors for now and

b) those rules will be up for
discussion once the FAA publishes
them.

Still, right now we have a
bunch of drone startups that can’t
really do anything because the
rules around commercial drone
flights are so unclear. Even if this
first batch of regulations is
annoying, at least it will provide
some clarity.

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It’s the irresponsible hobbyist who
could ruin the fun for everybody,
though. It’ll only take one real
accident and that’s it.
So when you get that quadcopter
in four weeks, don’t just run
outside and start it up without
having any idea of what you’re
doing. Read the Academy of Model
Aeronautics’ National Model Aircraft
Safety Code . That’ll give you a
general idea for what’s acceptable
(no flights over 400 feet within a 3-
mile distance from airports (or even
better: just stay really far away
from airports anyway), stay 100 feet
away from other people, etc.).

Then
take a look at this map. If you’re
inside one of those shaded areas,
don’t fly your drone there. Don’t fly
in national parks either. Just apply
some common sense — because
you don’t want to be this guy put
high-powered flying lawnmowers
machines into their hands, things
can get ugly fast. This Christmas,
more people than ever will get
quadcopters and that means even
more of them will think it’s a good
idea to fly them on a field right
next to their local (or international)
airport or over a stadium full of
people.

Thanks to people like this and
general public unease about all
things “drones” in the U.S., we will
soon get a first set of regulations
that will govern what we can do
with with our quadcopters — and
that’s okay. There has been a lot of
insecurity surrounding the FAA’s
plans for drones and the sooner we
get some clarity, the better.
For years, hobbyists were able to fly
their remote controlled planes (and
for all intends and purposes, that’s
what most of the “drones” you hear
about these days are) without any
hassle. There weren’t all that many
of them, the planes and helicopters
were expensive and hard to fly, and
most people followed the common-
sense rules of the AMA.

Today, you can buy a powerful
quadcopter with a built-in camera
and gimbal for less than a
thousand dollars. It doesn’t take
any special skills to operate them.

That’s awesome. I’ve played around
with my fair share of them (and
crashed a few, too) and they allow
you to take great images and
videos. But there is a growing
segment of the population
(especially in the U.S.), that freaks
out every time the word “drone” is
uttered somewhere. The Drudge
Report — that beacon of
journalistic integrity — happily
features a drone-related horror
story as often as possible , for
example.

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