FAA Says Drones May Be Used For Fun… But Not For Profit

from the because-how-dare-we-allow-innovation dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about a court saying that the FAA’s rules that banned the use of drones for anything commercial were overstepping the FAA’s mandate, and making it clear that such drones should be considered legal. The FAA has appealed, and in an attempt to drive home its point that not a single potential commercial use of a drone is legal, the FAA has doubled down by clearly laying out what’s not allowed. Lots of people are pointing out that the FAA’s claims are likely to ground the high profile plans by Amazon to deliver packages by drone, but it’s some of the other things that are on the prohibited list that strike me as even more ridiculous:

I can almost, kinda, barely, sorta see the rationale for saying that package delivery is not allowed, since you could see how that might interfere with other things or cause problems. And, in case you’re wondering, the footnoted “6” after that “delivering packages to people for a fee” clarifies that “free shipping” on a purchased product doesn’t count.

But… the rest of the items in the list all seem very troubling to me. None of those seem like cases where there’s likely to be any interference with aircraft or any other kind of problem. Drone use for real estate videos is increasingly common and something that actually seems like a very good idea. Here’s an example of one such video:

Can anyone explain any reason why this should be illegal? Same with the use of drones to determine if commercial crops should be watered. That sounds like a really good idea. But it’s not allowed. Because the FAA appears to basically want to control absolutely everything. This seems like a massive overreach in so many ways.

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Comments on “FAA Says Drones May Be Used For Fun… But Not For Profit”

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ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: A new legal way

Only if it’s for your own personal enjoyment.

As far as I can figure, the only reason you’d want to do so would be for personal enjoyment. That is, unless you work for the Department of Defense.

Lasers and Rockets on drones only fall into two categories, personal enjoyment or the first Nobel Peace Prize winner with kill-lists. Professional hitmen wouldn’t use a drone with lasers and rockets…since sniper rifles, pistols with silencers, and uranium pellets in specialized umbrella launchers are cheaper and easier to dispose of, and don’t tend to attract unwanted attention.

Anonymous Coward says:

Free market? Land of Free?

Tell me how you plan to run even a little lemonade stand in your front yard after the police come and dismantle it.

Want to cook cupcakes for others to buy? You must have a 2nd kitchen dedicated to that!

If you think this is a free nation… let me tell you something. You are both ignorant and stupid! Ignorant for not understanding what freedom means and stupid for continuing to remain ignorant despite the overwhelming evidence that we are no longer free!

With all of these 3 damn fucking letter organizations writing policy and rules without any real Congressional oversight has removed any semblance of freedom and liberty we ‘think’ we have!

Anonymous Coward says:

Farm crops is the most puzzling

I really can’t understand the ban on monitoring farm crops. Most farms are out in the middle of nowhere and cover many, many, many acres. Flying a drone over farm fields, unless you are thousands of feet in the air, would bother exactly nobody. Heck, they fly crop dusters over those fields, that would be a lot more bothersome than a quadcoptor with a GoPro on it.

Doug Taylor says:

Re: Farm crops is the most puzzling

While I don’t agree with the FAA, this MIGHT have more to do with keeping humans employed. Each drone with one operator would eliminate hundreds of dollars in airport fees, pilot fees, gas fees, plane repair persons and such.

However, there are many instances where a manned plane would be impractical such as photographing a wedding or reception from an otherwise impossible angle.

I do not have enough information yet to determine whether this is controlable with laws already on the books.

The old saying that “you can’t fight city hall” isn’t because city hall is or isn’t wrong but that the taxes you and everyone else paid to them give them a huge battle chest vs your savings. And even if you win, their battle chest will be renewed, your savings are just gone.

So, pick your battles. And good flying.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

So if just viewing a field is a violation if it’s a commercial farm, then using a drone to record a festival and posting it to Youtube is a violation if I’m running the festival*. But recording it and posting it to Youtube is fine if I don’t run the festival.

What have they been smoking at the FAA? I honestly want to know so I can avoid it, that shit sounds bad. Never go to that dealer again.

*I only point that out because we were going to do this where I work.

ComputerAddict (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You might be okay if you are the one purchasing / flying the drone (any not paying anyone to do it for you) Since you run the festival (i.e. your not selling the video to yourself) and you want to post it to youtube which is a free service (unless you plan to generate ad-revenue), and as long as you dont use the video for a promotional nature for subsequent years.. you should be okay.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You’re not allowed to use a drone to check if crops need watered if on a commercial farm. No one is profiting directly off of the use of the drone, but there’s secondary profit. Making profit from something that benefited from the use of the drone.

If you can’t use a drone to check the crops if you’re making money off of the crops, then I’m not allowed to use a drone to check a fest if I’m making money off of the fest. Using the video to promote the event would just double the violation.

But where does it end? If I buy a drone, can I fly it around and put it up on my Youtube channel; “Look at me, I’m flying a drone”? Can there be ads on it? Can I have ads on other videos on my channel?

Michael (profile) says:

It takes away all of the actual useful applications for drones. They are perfectly suited for automated checking of farm crops, checking power lines for branches or other problems (and landing on the lines to charge – why haven’t the power companies done this yet?), real estate photography, traffic studies, etc.

I could see possibly having some licensing and limits in heavily populated areas or near airports, but the FAA is nuts for a broad banning on them.

alternatives() says:

Re: Re:

(and landing on the lines to charge – why haven’t the power companies done this yet?)

Because electricity doesn’t work magically like that.

For the drone to charge it would have to complete the circuit – landing on one wire doesn’t complete the circuit. If it did pictures of birds on a wire would not exist.

Travis says:

Re: Re: Re:

An electric current traveling through a conductor generates a magnetic field around the conductor. This is how electromagnets and electric motors work.

Alternately, placing a conductor in a magnetic field creates an electric current. This is how generators work.

When you combine the two principals, you get what is commonly called inductive charging. you see it a lot in electric tooth brushes and it is becoming more popular for charging cellphones and other portable devices.

So yes, electricity DOES “work magically like that”. The birds are not fried because flesh does not induce a current.

Anon says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Nope, conductors are coiled so that stronger magnetic field can be generated. All you need is relative motion between conductor and the magnetic field. AC current will have changing magnetic field and a straight cable should in theory generate power to a drone sitting on top of it.

http://www.recycle.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/Corrosion-Control-AC-Power-Lines.pdf (Page 3, Figure 2)

Anonymous Coward says:

Someone convince them to base the rules on reasonably safety rules, like keeping the drone within site of the pilot, away from air,road and rail traffic, or overflying other peoples private property (that is dwellings and their immediate surrounds) without their permission. Commercial/non commercial use makes no sense from a safety perspective.

Anonymous Coward says:

model rockets and such?

How will this work for people who do research for companies that use weather balloons with cameras, model rockets, etc…

I understand the whole “under control” part to help define a drone, but how much control is considered under control?

Can I send up a balloon with a camera that take photos of a house for sale or a field that needs watering?

lars626 says:

FAA takes an easy out.

It is easy to ban something. It does not require thought or effort.

A better approach would be to set usage limits.
All users would be banned from some air space, such as near airports. Minimum altitude requirements above private property would be defined.
Additional restrictions set by local governments would be specifically allowed. Including restrictions on overflight of private property.
All users would be responsible for any damage they caused; state laws would cover this part.
Commercial users would be required that the drone be labeled with the owner and operators IDs and contact information.
The use of a drone for surveillance of private property requires a court issued warrant. Surveillance for commercial or private purposes would be considered trespass or stalking.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: FAA takes an easy out.

I think you miss the point here.

The FAA is not banning ALL drones, just the ones that help make profit. Apparently drones used for Fun are perfectly safe at the same altitudes and within the same airspace as the unsafe drones used for profit.

I agree that the FAA might need to set usage limits on drones, for everyone’s safety. But the Fun vs Profit intent of the drone would seem to have no effect on those safety issues.

But what do I know. At the risk of being called a conspiracy nut, I might suggest that the FAA somehow wants to separate commercial usage . . . in order to extract revenue in the form of some kind of licensing or approval fees.

Anonymous Coward says:

A realtor using a model aircraft to photograph a property that he is trying to sell and using the photos in the property’s real estate listing
A person photographing a property or event and selling the photos to someone else

Because that gives free reign to any idiot to go around flying in residential areas without regards to privacy or safety of the people next door people put up privacy fences for a reason , oh and peeping tom’s , and pedos flying nearby schools .. make the rules and then let those who rely on drones for their business model figure out what they need to do to make a case for their product … this is actually smart rule/law making , the foundation is put in place and shouldn’t need to add exemptions for business models until asked or needed.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is the opposite of smart lawmaking. Laws are supposed to be narrowly focused as to not infringe on the rights of the citizens (at least in this country).

Our government is not supposed to create broad, sweeping restrictions on what people can do and then make people ask for exceptions. If that were the case, we would all be living in small boxes right now and “might” be able to get out for fresh air if it served the public interest.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Our government is not supposed to create broad, sweeping restrictions on what people can do and then make people ask for exceptions. If that were the case, we would all be living in small boxes right now and “might” be able to get out for fresh air if it served the public interest.

the ground work was laid with the Constitution and yes our Government by the People did set limits , as we see now our very own are pushing those limits on privacy already … so are people supposed to put a sign on their roof saying OPTOUT.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

the ground work was laid with the Constitution and yes our Government by the People did set limits , as we see now our very own are pushing those limits on privacy already

The US constitution does not specify any right to privacy. The Bill of Rights does specify specific rights to privacy from the government about religious beliefs, government searches, and self-incrimination (sort of privacy related, I guess).

You cannot opt-out of being filmed or viewed in public places. Like it or not, the OUTSIDE of our homes is most often public. Now, I could see possibly expanding trespassing laws to include the area over someone’s property (50 to 100 feet maybe?), but the FAA is specifically barring use of drones OVER YOUR OWN PROPERTY.

And if you don’t want your house filmed by drones, I think there is a very simple solution – put a large television on it and play a Disney movie in a loop. Anyone caught filming it will end up with the DHS coming after them for copyright infringement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Anyone caught filming it will end up with the DHS coming after them for copyright infringement.

But then they’d get you for a “public performance” since it was visible to someone outside your house.

But seriously, I agree that you should be able to use drones over your own property so long as they are at altitudes that won’t conflict with “normal” aircraft. On the flip side, you shouldn’t be able to use them on anyone ELSE’S property at those altitudes without their permission.

The US constitution does not specify any right to privacy.

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” – 9th Amendment.

We have a right to some privacy whether it’s specified or not. It doesn’t extend to not being photographed while walking down the street, but it should extend to not having flying cameras peeping into your 26th floor apartment… and maybe even your first floor apartment.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

“Because that gives free reign to any idiot to go around flying in residential areas without regards to privacy or safety of the people next door people put up privacy fences for a reason , oh and peeping tom’s , and pedos flying nearby schools …”

Um, no it doesn’t. Peeping Tom laws already exist. No reason to create new, restrictive laws on perfectly reasonable, legitimate activity. Just enforce the laws we already have.

JMT says:

Re: Re:

“Because that gives free reign to any idiot to go around flying in residential areas without regards to privacy or safety…”

For all your righteous indignation you seem to have missed that the FAA has not done anything to prevent that from happening. All they done is said you can’t profit from flying in residential areas without regards to privacy or safety. It’s a stupid ruling because it does nothing a allay any of the genuine concerns of drone use, but bans some genuinely beneficial uses for no good reason.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Action vs Intent

Let’s take this scenario.

You are taking an aerial video of your house and notice that your neighbor’s commercial farm needs watering. You catch a little boy in the street playing basketball and he amazingly throws the ball, it bounces off of a car, then a truck, then a tree, and goes in the hoop and then bounces over a cement wall. You then fly your drone (with some crazy lift capacity), pick up the basketball, and fly it back to the little boy.

When your drone returns, you post the video on YouTube. At the block party later that evening, you mention to your neighbor that his fields need water, your other neighbor gives you a $5 bill for returning his son’s basketball, and the drone video, now getting millions of hits, happened to have picked up some music in the background and ContentID automatically monetized it for the artist. And someone else noticed from the YouTube video that your house had a for-sale sign I front of it and made you an offer.

I’m pretty sure you will have to go to jail for several hundred years.

DogBreath says:

Re: Action vs Intent

Personally, I use drones to check my farm fields for trespassers, zombies and also looking for Terrorists. If I happen to accidentally notice part of my crops need watering, well that is only because the drought ridden crops were in plain view.

If those crops didn’t want to be observed, they should have been inside behind closed doors, where they have a constitutional right to privacy, and I would need to get a warrant to inspect them. Otherwise, all the evidence of the lack of proper irrigation of said crops would have to be thrown out, unless I received prior permission from the crops to be searched in the first place. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to get permission from crops?)

So, if the FAA comes around accusing you of using your drone in violation of FAA rules, just say, “No, your wrong. I am not in violation of any FAA rules.” If they ask why, say, “Because Terrorism! That’s why!”

Doug says:

Re: Re: Action vs Intent

The field analogy is just silly. How would the FAA prove the intent of the farmer? Minds cannot yet be read as far as I know. And Denial is NOT a river in Egypt:

“I don’t konw what you’re talking about. I LOVE flying my drone around the farm. That my crops have improved are due to trade secrets that I don’t have to share with you.”

zip says:

The Ultimate "Fun" Drone -- a Peeping Tom that Seattle Police say is legal.

PORTLAND — Lisa Pleiss was surprised to see a drone hovering outside the window of her 26th-floor apartment this weekend.
“It was freaky,” said Pleiss. “You don’t expect to be walking around indecent in your apartment and then have this thing potentially recording you.” She thought she had privacy Sunday, high above the streets in her apartment in downtown Seattle. She called down to her concierge who called Seattle Police. Police said owning and flying a drone is legal.


John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Ultimate "Fun" Drone -- a Peeping Tom that Seattle Police say is legal.

“If you have your windows wide open, there’s no expectation of privacy.”

This is certainly not true as a blanket statement. If you have your windows open, you have no expectation of privacy from people who are in a place they are legally entitled to be looking through your window.

I suspect that the Seattle cops were just giving the caller the brush-off because they didn’t want to bother with it. Either that, or the laws in Seattle are dangerously archaic. In most other cities, it is absolutely illegal to use your model aircraft to hover outside of someone’s window and peek in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The Ultimate "Fun" Drone -- a Peeping Tom that Seattle Police say is legal.

ISTR that in one of the Carolinas the law is especially absurd – being nude in your own home can be indecent exposure if you can be seen from the street, but looking in at someone from the street can get you prosecuted under the peeping tom laws. Which person is guilty seems to come down to a mixture of who complains first and how much they like each person, with a side order of paedophile hysteria and “all men are rapists”.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Birds and Insects

I am waiting for the FAA to require licenses for birds and insects that have the temerity to fly in THEIR airspace. Birds chew up engines and insects obscure the windshield. Given the sheer quantities of such flying objects, it should be good for employment, though they will need some computer to keep registered those entities that have a lifespan of mere months.

Anonymous Coward says:

United States v. Causby

some of the other things that are on the prohibited list that strike me as even more ridiculous

Isn’t the whole thing ridiculous? The FAA has authority basically because the Supreme Court said “common sense revolts at the idea” that an airline would have to get permission from each state, municipality, even landowner, whose property they fly over. But such reasoning rarely applies to these low-flying drones?they usually fly within one city, often within one or a few properties, and it’s not clear the FAA can constitutionally claim any authority here.

In US v. Causby (1946), the court said

We have said that the airspace is a public highway. Yet it is obvious that, if the landowner is to have full enjoyment of the land, he must have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere. Otherwise buildings could not be erected, trees could not be planted, and even fences could not be run. [?] The landowner owns at least as much of the space above the ground as [he] can occupy or use in connection with the land. [?] The fact that he does not occupy it in a physical sense — by the erection of buildings and the like — is not material. As we have said, the flight of airplanes, which skim the surface but do not touch it, is as much an appropriation of the use of the land as a more conventional entry upon it.

By this logic, the FAA would certainly be exceeding its authority by forbidding real estate and crop photography.

lil says:

it's simple

Hi Mike, the answer to your question is simple.. So in the future, licensed commercial drone use for these ‘restricted’ activities.. and make $$$!

The true test of dronership will occur the first time one of these falls out of the sky & strikes and kills a u.s. citizen on u.s. soil.

As an aside, are you going to do a writeup on the assassination memo? I’d really like to read your thoughts in particular on legality et all.

Whatever (profile) says:

There are some real issues with drones in regards to controlled airspace. Some of these drones can fly quite a lot higher than would be safe, certainly up to the level where small private aircraft may be flying. That airspace is their mandate, and they take it seriously.

Don’t be shocked to see new regulations for “personal” drones that flight limit them to 100-200 feet.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Don’t be shocked to see new regulations for “personal” drones that flight limit them to 100-200 feet.”

Why new regulations about this? What’s wrong with the regulations that already exist? They include all kinds of things. There’s already regulations limiting altitude and prohibiting flying in in controlled airspace. The regulations are quite strict within a certain distance from critical things like airports, too.

Lifebinder says:

Why is it I have more or less unencumbered use of a drone for personal use, but I can’t use it for business? Where’s the line?

Say I use my drone to take personal pictures of a naturescape, which I post online. A journalist or some such approaches me and say “Gee those are some fine landscapes. I sure would love to buy them from you.” If I sell them, does that mean the sale is illegal because my drone was not engaged in personal use, but commercial?

Doug says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. Those images are prohibited from being included in your money making images. The journalist would know this and wouln’t expect you to part with the images for money. And, the illegality would probably extend to him/her as he/she would also be making money from the images. So, I don’t think you would have a problem here as the journalist probably wouldn’t ask for the images after finding out how you achieved the angle(s).

Not right, not fair, not legal.

LearningFromThePros says:

It’s too easy

,,Well Mr. Prosecutor while it is true that I do have a contract with company A said contract cleary states that I am to use a model aircraft to move a box from point to point without any kind of compensation. And as the list of emails show in each case they only asked for one box to be moved. Oh and by the way while we are all here (looks at CEO of company A) I want to remind you that my wife is selling her latest paintings next week. Sorry for that completly unrelated remark.”

hegemon13 says:

Rationale for Commercial vs. Hobby

This is actually pretty closely in line with other laws that already exist for remote control aircraft, and there is a rationale. Whether it is reasonable or adequate is up for debate. (I don’t really think so.)

Basically, the idea is that hobbyists have a vested interest and personal incentive to protect their expensive equipment. They aren’t making money from the equipment, and therefore are less likely to take risks that could be dangerous to other people, less likely to trespass where the UAV could be lost or unrecoverable, etc. (Note that property owners do NOT have an obligation to allow a UAV owner to retrieve a UAV that crashes or lands on private property.) Basically, they consider the hobby industry self-regulating because people want to keep their expensive toys nice.

On the other hand, commercial interest can incentivize risky behavior. If the commercial incentive (on-time deliveries, getting the right paid shot, getting financially rewarded for risky stunts) outweighs the risk to the equipment, the company or individual is more likely to take risks that could be dangerous to other people, property, aircraft etc. Things like flying through private property or densely-populated areas, cutting through no-fly zones, etc.

It’s my understanding that this ban is a stopgap, and that the FAA plans within the next couple years to issue actual commercial regulations for UAVs. Of course, those regulations will likely lead to regulatory capture, reduced innovation, and a significant delay in the rollout of this technology. But no government administration has ever seen a thing without wanting to control it, so here we are. It could be worse. They could have banned them completely, and I’m somewhat surprised they didn’t.

Last, for those making foolish comments like, “Peeping Toms have free reign to do whatever they want!” are foolish. We have laws for that. Using a UAV instead of a handheld camera doesn’t make it legal. Rather than assume pre-crime, just prosecute actual offenders using the laws we already have.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Rationale for Commercial vs. Hobby

“the idea is that hobbyists have a vested interest and personal incentive to protect their expensive equipment.”

Which is absolutely true. I fly mid-size R/C helicopters. I once computed how much each crash has cost me. It was, on average, about $100.

Costs aside, a crash also ends your flying day early unless you have a spare bird. That’s an even bigger punishment than the expense!

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

FAA regulation of orbiting lobbyists

Just when drones are reaching the stage where they might be profitable, the FAA comes up with…this? I wonder just what they’re fishing for Congress to pass into law?

They’re sure fishing for something, and they’ll get it, too. I bet the lobbyists are circling even now.

Hey, we need the FAA to regulate lobbyists! Just think:

Legal lobbying: Talking to the legislator about the weather.
Illegal lobbying: Talking to the legislator about blocking NWS from publishing reports for free, thus damaging the weather reporting market.

Legal lobbying: Talking to the legislator about closely held personal beliefs.
Illegal lobbying: Talking to the legislator about the closely held personal beliefs of a client.

Legal lobbying: Writing a law for the legislator about child pornography.
Illegal lobbying: Writing a law for the legislator about increasing Medicare payouts to private insurers…when your client is a private insurer.

Legal lobbying: Reviewing the legislator’s voting history for amusement.
Illegal lobbying: Reviewing the legislator’s voting history to determine if he should get campaign funding from a client.

kitsune361 (profile) says:

Was at a trade show this last week....

And I’m pretty sure some of the vendors/manufacturers I saw are a having a little panic attack right about now.

Also, another angle to this is the fact that the FAA has set up test grounds for commercial drone use. They are likely not ready to pass judgement on the impact of such use, and if it’s like any other application of bureaucracy it’ll be a while before they are.

Anonymous Coward says:

We already have several commercial companies in the area that will fly a drone around the farm land – inspecting fence lines, looking for lost or dead livestock, looking for patches of pesticide resistance weeds, etc. It is an extremely valuable tool.

This appear to me that FAA is making crap up just so they can turn around and attempt to sell license to these commercial companies. I am many would opt-in and just pass the cost increase along (with a 40% ‘service fee’ increase) to the clients.

At least the FAA should have waited a bit until the market was flush with cash. Then they could open the debate and vast amounts of money could be spent on lobbyist and various other forms of influences.

Anonymous Coward says:

I thought this was the silliest thing I had ever heard when I read it this morning. I think I understand the reasoning behind it now though. For drones to be used commercially for deliveries and such, the FAA is going to need to determine a lot of shipping lanes. This is probably just a move to buy them time for that massive undertaking.

Kyphir (profile) says:

Drone patrol

I am sorta wondering how the FAA would police somebody shooting pictures for commercial use… I mean, would THEY use a *gasp* DRONE?!!?!?

Seriously, though, I would really like to know how the FAA would go about enforcing any of this. If I take an aerial photo of, say, the Grand Canyon how would the FAA know if I took it using my quad copter-mounted Go-Pro or from a chartered plane? Or if I took a picture of a house using a toy plane or a crane?


John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Drone patrol

They’ll probably do this the same way they enforce the existing rules around R/C aircraft. They won’t proactively seek out rulebreakers, but will wait until someone files a complaint and then investigate. Finding commercial use would actually be relatively easy — all they’d have to do is subpoena the business records and take a look.

jeff says:

plea to the faa

Aaaaaaaaargh! What’s so hard so see that letting realtors fly lightweight drones to snap cool photos spurs industry and business at minimal risk? The FAA should deal with commercial flights not photography.
If I program my camera to take a photo in two seconds, and throw it in the air, and it snaps a photo, is that an unmanned aeriel vehicle?

Rick Eutsler (profile) says:

Has anyone considered?

Ok.. so I’m professional videographer and content creator on youtube. I don’t monetize my videos, but I am paid by various sponsors to create the footage. I own a DJI and just purchased an upgraded drone. The goal was to add some cool b-role footage to my content to spice things up.. Well I guess I’ll hold off? I’ve read a lot of articles and discussions on this topic and I’ve yet to see this connection made.

Does it strike anyone (If I’ve just missed it please forgive me) that the FAA is protecting commercial pilots that have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in training and equipment? I mean if I were a pilot that made my living filming commercial events via my helicopter and now all of a sudden a 20 something could replace me with a $2000 investment and 15 minutes of flight training… I’d be pretty scared about my bottom line.

It just seems so odd to me to be so adamant about crushing any commercial use of drones that there’s got to be an underlying motivation beyond “safety.” I mean, I’m flying a 2.5 pound piece of plastic in an empty field to get some cutaway shots for my video.. that’s illegal?? There’s more to it.. we figure that out and we may have a chance.


Doug says:

What's all the fuss - we're NOT FLYING DRONES


An unmanned aircraft must meet certain criteria to be classified as a drone.

Most aerial drones (not all however) are fully autonomous; meaning they are essentially flying robots and need no human intervention for flight control. Yes, humans program a flight mission and can usually take over control when needed, but most of the time they are flying fully autonomously.
The next distinction is the single most important one that no true drone can be without. It comes from the mention of the word “mission” in the first point. All true flying drones MUST perform a specific flight mission; whether that be aerial reconnaissance, atmospheric data acquisition, search & rescue operations, or blowing things & people up. In short, they must perform some specific job and have a commercial or military application. Again, none of us in the hobby are doing that, we fly for fun & recreation and “drone” is simply the most incorrect thing anyone can call any of our RC aircraft.
If you use a quad copter or other RC aircraft for commercial use (ie. aerial photography), in most countries you will need special permission or a certificate to do it legally. This still doesn’t mean you are flying a drone however. No governing body (that I can find anyways) calls these “drone certificates”, they call them UA (unmanned aircraft) certificates.
The majority of true aerial drones weigh over 25 kg (generally much more in fact) and can fly for hours on end – can your little sub 2kg RC quad-rotor do that? No, well guess what – it’s not a drone.

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