Sunday, March 18, 2012

Drones, safety and the FAA

GPS drone (UAS) with GoPro camera

GPS drone (UAS) with GoPro camera; Creative Commons image courtesy Don McCullough

A few recent news reports about drones have got me thinking about drone regulation. The FAA has basically banned commercial use of drones for the time being (although an NTSB administrative law judge recently cast doubt of the legality of the ban). That doesn’t seem to have deterred the feds though, who are even issuing cease and desist orders for non-commercial use.

I suspect many of us had assumed that this was all about aviation safety — not interfering with the flight paths of planes. And of course there are all sorts of privacy issues too.

But a big one turns out to be the safety of people on the ground. A triathlete was struck in the head last week by a drone, and last year there was a gruesome fatality. Manufacturers seem to be responding, but perhaps not quickly enough:

DJI is releasing a firmware update for all Phantom drones that lets pilots avoid flying near airports or user-generated no-fly zones.

I will say that the AR Drone below looks a bit safer than the one pictured above. What do you think? Is the FAA being overly cautious?

AR drone

AR Drone Creative Commons image courtesy H Michael Miley



About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. I’m curious why we’ve stopped calling most of these things “remote controlled helicopters” and “remote controlled airplanes” that have been on the consumer market for decades and started calling them “drones”.

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