(Left) U.S. Military predator drone (Right) Civilian drone filming the riots in Poland over the ACTA signing
UAVs have been all over the news in recent months, with the recent acquisition of military grade surplus for both federal and law enforcement agencies. For them, it is legal to fly those in most major cities. For civilians, it’s a different story, as a California based realty company found out when the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) scolded them for using UAV’s to make promo videos for potential customers. Even hobbyists in the model airplane realm have had it rough. Federal rules dictate they can only fly them in designated areas and with a predetermined height.
However, this might change as the United States Senate has introduced legislature that would require the FAA to revise its rules concerning private UAVs. Included in this legislation are altitude revisions for drones that weigh up 55 pounds, that is meant to avoid collisions with commercial aircraft. That situation happens more frequently than you might think. August 2011 saw a collision of a Shadow drone and a C-130 over Afghanistan.
Airline pilots are voicing their concern with the revision as they have to achieve a certain amount of flight hours while drone pilots do not. They feel that UAV pilots should have to meet the same standards as human controlled aircraft. There is also the concern of crashing into residential areas as it is not uncommon for UAVs to suffer catastrophic malfunctions and plummet to the earth. Rules and at least a few test sites are already in place with full implementation of regulations coming in three years. Let the spying begin!