From Politico, a long piece arguing that the "FAA is often powerless to halt the growing drone swarm".



The Washington Nationals used a drone to photograph spring training. Real estate agents use them to show off sprawling properties. Martin Scorsese hired one to film a scene in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

So where does this leave the Federal Aviation Administration, which insists that commercial drone use is illegal?

Way behind — and facing turbulence as drone use explodes.

Thanks to falling prices, spotty enforcement and the fact that it’s almost impossible to spot the devices being used, the FAA is often powerless to halt the growing drone swarm. Retailers freely sell the tiny planes, quadcopters and hexacopters for as little as a few hundred dollars, and entrepreneurs continually come up with creative uses like wedding photography and crop monitoring — along with delivering beer and dropping off dry-cleaning.

The result, observers and drone users warn, could be a Wild, Wild West in the nation’s skies. As small drone operators grow used to flying them without the FAA’s permission, they could become less inclined to obey any rules the agency puts in place. And with the cost of the technology continuing to drop, the drones could eventually become far too ubiquitous for the agency to police.

Meanwhile, the FAA is lagging in meeting a congressional mandate to allow commercial drones to share the skies legally.

“Most people want to comply with the FAA rules,” said Ted Ellett, a former FAA general counsel who is now a partner specializing in aviation at the law firm Hogan Levells. “But the more the FAA acts like a big daddy, behemoth government agency that is imposing excessive restrictions, the more the feeling of ‘I’m an American, they can’t tell me what to do’ kicks in. And that’s a real danger for the FAA.”

Plenty of drone users are going ahead without waiting for the agency.

“A lot of our members would like to start businesses using this technology,” said Timothy Reuter, the founder of the Drone User Group Network in Washington. “Some of them are waiting for the regulations to open up. Others, honestly, aren’t.”


Views: 1642

Comment by Jesse on February 22, 2014 at 6:45pm

With the technology already in the hands of many, who is really willing to wait YEARS before they're allowed to "legally" use it? (assuming it's not kept illegal). As long as users keep aircraft below 400ft AGL, avoid congested areas and don't fly in the vicinity of airports, all will be well. Full-size aircraft can't fly below 500ft AGL anyway (with the exception of landing, emergencies or flying over unpopulated land). As a former FAA employee myself (ATC) and licensed pilot, I really don't see any major reasonable objections to drone use as proposed by this group.

Comment by Scott Fuller on February 22, 2014 at 6:52pm

Jesse. Problem with altitude restrictions.. Some of these drone users want to photograph infrastructure such as bridges and towers. If you have a tower that goes 800 feet up, you're restricted to 400 feet.. How to you legally utilize a drone to inspect the remaining 400 feet? 

Comment by Gary Mortimer on February 22, 2014 at 10:54pm
You can regulate very easily, make sure that person has a higher level of qualification. France whilst on one hand starting to hand out very big fines is on the other allowing flights out to 100km for suitably qualified entities.

I have long been saying its going to be like CB radio in the 70's the FCC had to give up.

No doubt there will be a more meaningful punishment structure in place for those that insist on showing off and a way for extended commercial ops for those that comply.

Not before 2017 though unless there is extreme pressure from all quarters. AV and Insitu should have there plans in place by then.
Comment by Mark on February 23, 2014 at 1:28am

I remember in the 90's President Bill Clinton showed-up on TV and said: "Internet is very dangerous for our kids and for people.."

A couple months later the same Bill Clinton on the same TV said: "Internet is a very important part of our economy.."

What happened after that we can see in our homes Today..

All depends on who's paying and how much

Comment by Mark on February 23, 2014 at 1:34am

As of right now (please correct me if I am wrong) I can go out, build a drone for a company for profit, have them hire me as a pilot of their own drone (say, a real estate agency to film their properties from under 400ft of altitude) for an hourly rate.

Have I broken any law? I did not fly a drone commercially as it is not my drone and owner of the drone can hire me as a pilot.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on February 23, 2014 at 4:07am

That company is making valuable consideration out of the images, best ask the FAA not DIYD. The real acid test comes if you have an accident.

Comment by Marius van Rijnsoever on February 23, 2014 at 4:25am

@Mark. You would make money flying the drone and therefore you are flying it commercially (regardless who owns the drone). If you are a pilot for an airline, you can not say to the FAA, I do not own the airplaine therefore it was not a commercial flight :) The FAA has even gone after people who where using for a non-for-profit business.

It is a shame that the FAA does not seem to realise that the use of "drones" will only sky rocket in the next years. They can either get on board an pro-actively manage rules, regulation and accreditations. Or it can become irrelevant.

Do you think in Hollywood they are going to say to Steven Spielberg: "Sorry we can not get you that angle as the FAA has not created any commercial licenses, but maybe we can do this in 2017". Anybody that really needs it for commercial purposes (film industry, real-estate, etc), will use the technology. I am sure everybody in these companies wants to comply and would happily spent time/money to get accredited. The FAA may get irrelevant with regards to drones soon. 

Comment by Mark on February 23, 2014 at 5:03am

@Marius van Rijnsoever. I agree, it's most likely a commercial flight.

Then I'll fly absolutely free but get paid for washing dishes at real-estate mess hall. Can I fly that way?

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on February 23, 2014 at 5:34am

Hi All,

I believe the controlling factor will be the future lawsuits that are filed against drone operators who's drones fall from the sky and cause either property damage or personal injury. If these drone operators are not fully insured against these types of lawsuits, they will soon be out of business because of the financial losses due to the lack of insurance.


TCIII ArduRover2 Developer

Comment by Dwgsparky on February 23, 2014 at 5:47am
Could the FAA then be sued for actively preventing someone from obtaining correct insurance by their lack of action to provide suitable working regulation ?


You need to be a member of DIY Drones to add comments!

Join DIY Drones

Season Two of the Trust Time Trial (T3) Contest 
A list of all T3 contests is here. The current round, the Vertical Horizontal one, is here

© 2020   Created by Chris Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service