I just read washington Posts comments on UAVs and recently the intern ruling by the FAA ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/19/AR2007071902347.html?nav=rss_technology/techpolicy ) It seems we hobbyist have it somewhat easy, all we need to do is fly below 400 feet, have a spotter, and basically be safe. Yet how strange is it that as soon as we move to the commercial/professional world we need to get a waiver from the FAA? I've seen the applications to get one but how hard are they to come by? I would suspect that even if you or I see a need in our professional careers it would take a small miracle to get the same planes we fly as a hobby approved for professional use.

Additionally most corporations and professional entities would not take too kindly to one of their lower echelon employees go out and try to get a waiver to fill a void he/she sees. I can think of several professional organizations, including law enforcement, first responders, search and rescue, parks and wildlife, conservation, etc that could use this technology to gather real time intelligence of what is happening in their backyards.

So the state sponsored search and rescue team has to try to determine where the lost hiker is by looking for sign and trying to follow it out. If they don't have air support they may be looking for a while and still never find the hiker till it is too late. They can request the state to get them air support, and perhaps the state will relent but then they need to wait for a waiver from the FAA and unfortunately it seems many large organizations like to do things on a large scale. So they tell the search and rescue team to wait for the budget to come through so they can by a $9 million predator or what not.

So I wonder with these obstacles how can we as a hobbyist community move this technology forward to where it contributes to the greater good when we are stymied as soon as we try to cross over to the professional world?

Views: 182

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on July 21, 2007 at 7:52pm
Great point Ed,

BTW, the URL got truncated on that post. I'll try giving it again here:


Excerpts: "This year, regulators expect to grant more than 130 waivers to government agencies to use unmanned flying machines, up from 64 two years ago. The FAA has granted private companies nine certificates to operate drones in the United States this year -- a total of 13 have been granted since 2005 -- so they can test their products, regulators said."

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on July 21, 2007 at 7:53pm
One more time to see if it accepts proper html. The article is here.
Comment by Patrick Egan on July 23, 2007 at 4:20pm
A copy of what I sent to Washington Post reporter.


While I enjoyed your article, I felt it necessary to elucidate further on some items in the story. First off let me introduce myself; I currently sit on the board of RCAPA (remote Control Aerial Photography Association), and as such have been involved with the safe integration of SUAS into the NAS for several years. Our membership consist of 1400 + mainly small operators who shoot aerial photography for real estate professionals/ developers, agriculture, insurance etc. The FAA has been throwing out a lot of misinformation about the safety of UAV/UAS. Let’s take Mt. Hood as just one example; did they tell you the winds were 50 + knots and that full sized aviation was grounded? I’ll have to assume that the FAA didn’t mention that there is only one UAV incident on record and that incident involves a Predator on the Mexican boarder. Our membership has tens of thousands of safe hours flying, no fatalities, damage to property and or collisions with manned aviation, yet we were shut down on February 13 of this year.


Prior to the formation of the AIR-160 office, operators were faxed or sent a copy of AC 91-57 and told to fly under those parameters. Many small business people have invested thousands of dollars in equipment and time to develop platforms and technique that have spawned a whole new genre of commercial photography- the low altitude aerial.

Enforcement of policy would appear to be arbitrary at best. While the contractors are being catered to, the public languishes in the commercial doldrums. Most of the RCAPA membership (85%) fly craft that weigh less then 70 ounces (yes ounces). We have offered viable solutions for safe integration of SUAS (Small Unmanned Aerial Systems), that would mitigate most if not all of the risk associated with this type of work. These solutions have been discounted while entities like Lockheed Martin get million dollar contracts to work on road maps for UAS integration. Simultaneously they are awarded contracts by the military for UAS systems. In the opinion of staffers on the House FAA committee, “it would appear as though there may be a conflict of interest.” I would say that is a fair assessment of the situation in its entirety.

Regards, Patrick Egan
Comment by James Pollock on January 23, 2012 at 6:43pm

Mr. Egan:


I'm interested to hear more on the matter, particularly regarding the matter of RCAPA members offering commercial photography services.  The FAA doesn't have an issue with this?  I certainly dont, as I also want to offer commercial photography and video services and am not particularly interested in exploring the area of autonomous flight at this time. 


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