A decade ago, a tech-obsessed operator of a small, electronic, remote-guided aircraft would have been considered a geek with a model airplane hobby. These days, they’re building drones—and they’re not geeks, they’re rebels.
Drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) as they are known by enthusiasts and lawmakers, are now more advanced and powerful enough to carry today’s much smaller cameras. They are inexpensive and easy to build, the kind of project modern boy scouts carry out. By assembling a cheap quad-copter kit (often appropriately purchased on Amazon) anyone can create an aerial surveillance drone.
It would seem that many are afraid of the prevalence of UAS. On June 20th, the Associated Press reported that the National Park Service is taking measures to prohibit the general use of drones within park boundaries. Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the Park Service, was quoted,
“This is a different kind of aircraft, and it is being used in different ways than what we have seen from the (model aircraft) hobbyists. We want to have some control over it before it proliferates.”
He specifically mentioned fearing for birds, wall climbers, and the beauty of Mt. Rushmore.
But the FAA, which is in charge of the US Airspace in general, has been ordered by Congress’s FAA Modernization and Reform Act to loosen up a bit. You see, in 2007, the FAA wrote a policy notice banning commercial UAS flight, and used it to prosecute a commercial UAS operator. It was the only case of its type, and was overturned by a Federal judge in March 2014, on the grounds that the notice was not enforceable regulation.
So the FAA, working in conjunction with The Departments of Transportation, Defense, Commerce, Homeland Security, and NASA was supposed to integrate civilian drones into the National Airspace by 2015. However, designation of six test flight areas was to be made in February of 2012, but didn’t occur until December of 2013, so many are concerned that the FAA might be behind schedule.
In the meantime, UAS flights continue to occur. Small UAS often fly ‘under the radar,’ of law enforcement, but legally, they have every right to operate—except in crowded areas or above 400 ft. Still, the image of drone operators has become undeniably attractive, as our generation’s rebel.
If you are a UAS operator yourself, please comment with your opinion or experiences.