Like It or Not, Drone Licensing Is Coming


By Stephen Mann

What an outrageous proposal. How dare you propose drone hobbyists be licensed before they start flying?

This is the only way to save the hobby of personal drone flight. It’s the only way to protect the hobby from overreaching, confusing, conflicting and almost always illegal attempts by the government to regulate flight.

Licensing is going to happen. Just look at all the hysteria that surrounds every drone sighting. No sensation-seeking journalist or politician can pass that opportunity for grandstanding. This is why we should get ahead of them and propose reasonable licensing now before the politicians force very unreasonable licensing terms on us.

Ham radio is a good example of how this can work. Amateur Radio operators have been operating in an environment regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for decades using volunteer examiners (VE) to administer the tests for various Amateur Radio classes of licenses. 

The VE forwards the test materials to the FCC and, if the applicant passes, they receive their Amateur Radio license. VEs usually are members of ham radio clubs who also provide classes in radio theory and FCC rules. The FCC does not collect any fees for the Amateur Radio license, but the VE may charge a small fee for preparing and administering the test.

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  • Jeez man get a life! I think there are more important things in life to worry about. Always someone out there who just has to control others using bogus doom and gloom claims. I am particularly concerned with obvious drones users who actually by into these specious arguments. By all means if you feel you need a license go out and get one but please do not use your paranoia to restrict my already diminishing freedoms...

  • You're repeatedly posting blatant misinformation.  This misinformation is harmful to the hobby that you claim you're trying to defend. That misinformation has been explained to you on several occasions now.  You continue to ignore these facts and continue to post misinformation on the matter. At this point, your actions are malicious since you know better and continue to act in this manner.  The only response you have to this misinformation being explained to you is to post polite insults accusing those pointing it out as having emotional issues.

    So do you work for Senator Feinstein, tasked with peddling her warez?  Or are you actually that far out of touch with reality that you believe what you're saying?  Which is it.

  • I'm not at all surprised. It's impossible to have an intelligent conversation about regulations without emotional outbursts and insults on DIYDrones. Other than blowing off steam, this is not helping the hobby's future. 

  • Phillip, You've once again proven that you do not have a clue what you're talking about.  Literally everything you just said about the "proposed act" is completely false.  Either you don't know how to read (unlikely), or you are not qualified to form an opinion on these matters (process of elimination makes this likely).  The act changes everything. You won't be able to fly exactly as you are today. It isn't sensible or practical. And you have no proof or evidence these rules will prevent anything at all.

    The act lists illogical and completely impossible requirements.  With those impossible requirements, it effectively makes flight outside of an AMA club field off limits and impossible for any hobby purpose. The only way you can fly is if you purchase an AMA membership and fly at their club fields. I fail to see how you think that is "sensible and changes nothing".

    Please quit peddling this load of crap.  You sound like a plant for one of the useless politicians that wrote this non-sense.  Nobody is stupid enough to fall of this as a good idea.

  • Regarding the need for FAA authority, please see this article about their current lack of authority over consumer drones. 

    Legislation would close loopholes in FAA’s authority over consumer ...

    Anyone flying drones within the rules today need not get upset about the regulations proposed in the Consumer Drone Safety Act. They will not change our ability to fly exactly as we are flying today (under 400 feet, within line of sight, etc).

    IMO, since new regulations are certainly coming, it's better to begin to understand what they will likely contain, as well as their impacts on our hobby.

    The proposed Act puts sensible requirements on drone manufacturers that will limit the flight envelope of consumer drones. This alone would prevent the vast majority of uninformed and dangerous idiots from flying their drones into restricted airspace. This, IMO, is a smart, important, and necessary step towards improving air safety. DJI has already implemented some of these restrictions as standard features, btw. Without regulations such as those proposed, the number of drone incidents will continue to rise and an air disaster will eventually occur. Nobody wants that. Certainly not airline pilots, nor passengers, nor drone manufacturers, nor hobbyists. 

    We all recognize that the airspace is tightly regulated for reasons of safety. The historic safety record of air travel is extraordinary. Safety remains paramount, as it must. We should expect that the government will do whatever is necessary to keep the airspace safe.

    IMO, it is better for the hobby to stop fighting and begin to accept what is about to occur for valid reasons of safety. 

  • I am afraid the FAA does NOT need authority, that is what you are NOT getting. They have the authority NOW! Enforcement is the answer to how are they going to deal with it, and I wouldn't want to be the first one through. They have the laws on the books right now, let me put it to you this way, just because you can buy an airplane, doesn't give you the "right" to fly it. Same with a car, so why is a UAS any different? Just because you have got away with something doesn't make it your right. As a matter of fact, you don't have a "right" to drive, it is a privilege granted by the state. The FAA controls the air, period, from surface to 80,000. They grant the privilege to fly. They can take it away. I have a license to fly and a Certificate of Authorization to fly my UAS and charge money. It takes a pilots license, a medical, and insurance. These are the current requirements for commercial use. It doesn't do any good for me to not like the rules, I don't, but I live with them, just like when I drive my roadster. You can be annoyed all you want, doesn't change anything. It is the same with firearms, more than 300 million guns killed no one yesterday. However, the air is shared space. The consequences of a collision will be a disaster. My UAS weighs over 10 kilos. It has one inch tube arms and aluminum motor mounts. It would go through a windshield with little to no effort. Since I fly, this is a concern to me. 10 kilos at 130 knots, no problem. This is why it MUST change. There are too many idiots with money and no brains. I agree that no outside government gives a rats behind about our laws, but the government does control what is allowed into the country, to a certain degree. That could make all of our lives very difficult. I want to keep flying both and building. The technology is just getting really good. It is almost plug and play. I really want to see Gen 2 or 3. I hope that we as a group can overcome the ignorance to the basic rules of the air, and there aren't that many. We should be at the front of this instead of complaining. To get that certificate required a trip to DC to meet with the FAA in person. For me 3000 miles. I operate under the exact same rules as an airplane, except for the 400 AGL limit. I also can't fly within 5 miles of a CONTROLLED airport and 3 from an uncontrolled. I can get a temporary allowance if I need to be over 400, so far it hasn't come up. The view from over 400 is lousy. I can't see any reason to be higher. At 80 meters, my almost 4 foot UAS looks like a Phantom. I am sorry to say, again, that it is coming and soon. There are enough non-flyers that are ticked off at our community that getting turned in will be how they catch you. Too many people refusing to follow any rules, or ignorance. Too many over 400, over densely populated areas, too many in restricted airspace. One announcement that they were restricted and flying as we know it will stop. Right now, we can fly where they can't, under 400. That is the key to staying out of aircrafts way. That is what this is about, not taking your "rights". No unmanned anything should take down a manned aircraft, that is the danger and what they are trying to prevent before it is a tragedy. 

  • It's encouraging that people are taking the time to read the new regulations being proposed. At some point, the FAA will be given authority and we will have some form of new laws. Best to get familiar and anticipate what is coming. 

    As far as the Consumer Drone Safety Act, it does include allowance for requirements exemptions. If interested, the exact wording can be found in Section 3D of the Act. In part, it says the following:

    "...the FAA may exempt a type of consumer drone ...if complying with that requirement is technologically infeasible or cost-prohibitive for the type of consumer drone"

    My guess is that geofencing will be a legal requirement on all consumer drones very soon. It's something that is relatively easy to implement. In fact, a large number of consumer drones already have geofence capabilities. It's just a matter of making this a more secure standard feature. I doubt even the manufacturers will object. Frankly, they shouldn't, since air safety should be recognized as a core part of their responsibility.

  • Phillip, the "requirements" in that "Consumer Drone Safety Act" are lunacy.  Did you even read it?  They expect, for example, DJI to mount a transponder on a 2lb plastic phantom??  A transponder costs 2-4x as much as the drone itself, weighs more, and requires more electricity than any flight battery can supply within reason. It would have to go through all kinds of FAA certification BS, which takes years. And even stupider, the 400AGL ceiling is below of the radar floor in most of the USA, making a transponder literally useless.  It requires identification numbers, but makes no mention of how or who or issues such non-existent numbers.  And they have the gall to "require" manufactures to modify any and all existing drones sold prior to this laws existence. Riiight.

    I highly doubt this bill will get anywhere once the corporate pressure and lobbyists give them a reality check.

    Not surprising this was written by two liberal politicians from two of the most politically liberal states in the country that have the most awful record of making new laws on top of new laws that accomplish nothing.  All talk. Not bite. And apparently no brain.

  • @Brendon and @Bradd

    Just wanted to support your comments. It's often hard to discuss this topic without emotional flareups. 

    The hobby community will survive and adjust to the coming regulations. Those flying within the current rules may not even notice the changes. The Consumer Drone Safety Act proposes reasonable ideas that will both increase air safety and limit impacts on drone hobbyist. Hopefully, congress and the drone manufacturers will work together to get it finalized, passed and implemented before there's an air tragedy. Just one of those will force congress to react in ways we certainly won't like. 

  • Next year seems like a reasonable estimate for the arrival of new consumer drone regulations. If you're interested in how congress plans to make the skies safer, see the Consumer Drone Safety Act. Consumers should at least be happy to know that most of the burden falls to the drone manufacturers. 

    If you're flying within the rules already (everyone here is, right?), then the regulations spelled out in Act should not upset you. And they won't affect your drone flights. 

    Text - S.1608 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): Consumer Drone Safety Act
    Text for S.1608 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): Consumer Drone Safety Act
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