Legality of testing drones

How do companies such as Amazon and 3DR and other drone manufactures test their drones legally in the US? For example, Amazon makes a change to one of their test drones. They take it out back of the workshop and fly it around the parking lot. Even though they did not fly it for hire or furtherance of a business they still were paying the drone engineer their engineer salary to fly the drone. Same goes for any other US based business that develops drones. How are they doing this without having an exemption?  

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  • Good points. - Why are they able to do this, and/or why will they continue to get away with this?

    Because they are the big corporations and they are favored, whether any official or agency will admit it or not.

    The military gets to do pretty much whatever they want because they are the military, and that is understandable.

    Delivery Drones are the beast beginning to raise its head above the sea, and represents big money, commerce, etc.

    While Private Drones prejudiced against, not taken seriously at all unless there is some accident or problem, despite the fact that private drones represent the PUBLIC. And in the USA at least, the Public is supposed to be the boss, and all the public servants are supposed to be public servants. Yes, I know, wishful thinking despite any principles or laws that say so.

    Commercial drone testing is not only happening in the USA, it is happening all over the USA. There are official test sites in many States, on top of whatever corporation do on their properties.

    It should also be noted that there are several to many airports of various sizes allowing or planning commercial drone development. I got a spot on a local radio show this morning where this was an issue, with a man who is the director of pretty much all the local airports, and I called him on it. He stated that private/hobby drones are not allowed within miles of an airport, yet they want commercial drones at the airport. I said that was being a little prejudiced, isn't it? The show host interjected that this might be due not to local decisions, but due to Government regulations. Yet, when the director answered that, he stated that they do/may allow drones during "Special occasions" like air shows. So I again called him on it, and said that if they were allowed during "Special occasions" then it is possible to allow them, - right? (momentary sound of crickets in the background) he got to slide on that one, with the show hosts' help.

    I thin this is, and may more-so become an issue, or should be, because if anyone should have a right to the use of a PUBLIC airport, it is the PUBLIC, as in Private drone groups and individuals.

  • Speaking of Tethered. I think you can still fly a kite or a balloon while tethered. There are few people who fly cameras on their kites.

    • More good points. I think that it will turn out that there will be some kind of common practice on what is acceptable for testing as long as safe protocols are followed. But again, that will last until someone screws up and then they will crack down on that too.

      Thanks for noticing the mods to the cinetank. The prop guards have since come off. They added too much wind resistance.

  • Just the other week I saw something from the FAA that said tethered was a no go. So far the FAA doesn't have any problems being inside or using a fish net outside. We used a fish net at the Reno Air Races this year and it was all kosher. As far as testing I think the FAA isn't really concerned about some companies. They realize the companies that are testing at RC fields or fields they own and don't cause a safety issue.

    BTW I dig your pictures of your modded Cinetank. I guess we think alike, I have the same quad and love it. Mine doesn't look so pretty and tidy.

  • Rob,

    Great post. You bring up some great points. I wonder if having your aerial platform tethered would exempt you from any FAA action. You could attach a very lightweight but strong fishing line to it perhaps. There are so many loopholes am just wondering how a big company can develop drone technology and still be 100% free from harassment from the FAA. Indoor testing is about the only thing I can think of that should totally keep you covered, Although I'm sure there are some feds that would still like to argue otherwise.  

  • I think companies are flying low and avoiding the FAA radar. Now I don't know if Amazon is doing anymore testing outside right now. I'm sure the FAA has someone parked right over research area to make sure no one flies in open air.  You bring up a good point with Amazon making changes. They have been trying to get an exemption from the FAA. The FAA says just apply for an experimental exemption. If they make one small change like move a light over then they are not in conformance with their COA.

    Also, what about all the other companies that design and make model aircraft here in the US. If I was their attorney I would tell them to go outside of the US to do your work. You can't test a 60" wingspan plane inside. They are flown by someone getting paid at some field.

    The issue has also been brought up regarding expert pilots that are sponsored by other companies. Here lies the problem. Just don't go out of your office and launch a paper airplane outside while getting paid. I'm beginning to think the only ones that will be using UAVs will be the FAA making sure the rest of us aren't flying.

    If you were to follow the FAA regulation then no one working for a business should be flying outside if they are getting paid. Right now we have quite a few companies that have started up designing, building and selling really good RC aircraft like Luminiere, GetFPV, Cinetank, 3DR. Not to mention the resellers of DJI and other Hobbystores that show a customer how to fly their drone. Lets not forget anyone on Youtube in the US that has turned on adsense while showing off their latest flight. 

    I have been following (grounded) for 8 years and I really don't think we are any closer than we were back then to getting sensible regulations approved.

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Aug 25