End the Lie

Report: commercial drone operators in US ignoring federal regulations restricting drone flights

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By End the Lie

(Image credit: kekko72/Flickr)

(Image credit: kekko72/Flickr)

According to a new Reuters report, individuals using drones for commercial purposes in the United States are in some cases simply ignoring the federal regulations that restrict drone flights and in others using clever tricks to avoid the regulations entirely.

Commercial use of drones domestically is just one aspect of the massive drone boom that has pushed colleges and universities to offer more drone piloting programs. Currently, no one even knows how many entities are cleared to fly drones by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

While commercial use is indeed concerning, we cannot ignore the military use of drones domestically in concert with law enforcement (something which is disturbingly common), the fact that Customs and Border Protection uses drones capable of intercepting electronic communications and identifying people on the ground, nor the Department of Homeland Security use of drones, the constantly growing list of public entities allowed to fly drones, the Marshals Service use of drones, the use by National Guard units and so much more.

When it comes to the regulations restricting commercial drone use, some say they are simply unenforceable.

“How do you possibly enforce these regulations?” Patrick Egan, editor of sUAS News and consultant to the US military, said to Reuters.

Even when people do follow the regulations, they are apparently quite easily circumvented. One company, ImageMark Strategy and Design, offers drone-powered aerial photo and video services to clients including real estate firms, universities and golf resorts.

When they found out about the FAA restrictions on commercial drone use, partner Scott Benton said they simply changed it up slightly to “charge clients for editing and post-production work, not the drone flights.”

If that’s all it takes to get around the limitations on commercial drone use, it is hard to say that the regulations do anything meaningful at all.

According to Reuters, this type of argument is offered by many other commercial drone operators. Some claim they operate only on private land while others say they are not selling the drone flight time but instead selling the data captured by the drone.

Even when a News Corp-owned news website used a drone in Alabama, Missouri and North Dakota to capture footage of flood damage, an FAA investigation only resulted in a warning according to statements from a spokesman to Reuters.

A News Corp spokesman would not issue a comment to Reuters and it remains unclear what exactly that warning involved.

While some dodge the regulations, others just ignore them completely.

“Honestly? My hope is that I’m far afield enough and small enough potatoes to the FAA that I can fly under the radar on this one,” said one anonymous commercial drone operator to Reuters.

Egan is apparently even more concerned with the potential commercial uses than use by police, a perspective which I personally find quite odd.

“I’m less worried about the police getting a fleet of drones than I am about the news media,” Egan said. “Imagine what it will be like when the paparazzi can send a fleet of drones into the Hollywood hills.”

Egan’s perspective is quite unusual since many people are indeed troubled by the prospect of police using drones on a regular basis and have taken action to restrict use by law enforcement.

Seattle’s mayor forced the city’s police to abandon their drone program and an anti-drone resolution has been passed in Charlottesville, Virginia with a state-wide moratorium in the works as well.

Similarly, efforts to restrict drone use are sweeping the nation and federal action has become a real possibility as well.

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2 Responses to Report: commercial drone operators in US ignoring federal regulations restricting drone flights

  1. Pingback: Commercial drone operators in US ignoring federal regulations restricting drone flights

  2. Hide Behind March 8, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    Limiting is acceptance and they are lining up at Fed and State job openings for additional bureaucracy positions and FED/MIL,INTEL are saying!” SEE, WE TOLD YOU IT WAS GONNA BE EASY TO PUT THEM UP.
    All it takes is to manipulate them into thinking they can gain monetarily and that it was their idea to begin with.
    WHy worry about restrictions when State and Fed authority can break them at will and all you’ ve done is give some college grad a worthless position in government.


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