To Drone or Not To Drone?

With the advent of the many quadcopters and kits, it’s pretty clear that remote-controlled and/or autonomous small aircraft are beginning to break into the mainstream. While hobby aircraft have long been around, it looks like they’re now moving into the commercial sector, as even Amazon is playing with the idea of delivering products via drones. Their team makes some exciting claims, including the ablility covering 86% of 5-lb deliveries via drones that can go as quickly as 50 mph (PDF warning).

Unfortunately for the industry, it looks like the use of these drones will be stifled by some fairly restrictive regulation. While we haven’t seen (to my knowledge) any real malicious acts committed by the operators of the aircraft, there is quite a bit of fear from different governments surrounding the operation of these drones. Recently there was a case of drones entering a no-fly zone near a French nuclear reactor. Obviously it is correct to monitor the area around such sensitive sites, but in this case, it looks like they were simply recording footage of a remote-controlled boat.

There are also issues with the FAA surrounding the commercial use of drones. Even though a ruling by a federal judge struck down a $10,000 fine levied on the videographer for a medical school commercial, the FAA continues to restrict the usage of drones, recently updating their rules to include drones in a prohibition of flight over stadiums and arenas.  The FAA did recently post a “myth-busting article” on their website, which mentions that hobbyists are expected to operate within the model aircraft guidelines.

Personally, I’ve admired the people who have managed to monetize their interests in drones, including these videographers and also some others who use them as aids in the hunt of feral hogs. I’d like to spend time looking into my own business opportunities, but with such an uncertain future regarding the regulation, it looks like it’s best to restrict ideas to the hobbyist realm, for now.

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