I attended a webinar put on by the FAA. There was some good news coming out of that. They are finalizing a proposed rule for small UAS use – so maybe they will take a page from UAS America Fund (see my prior post from before Christmas). They also discussed how since UAS are defined as aircraft, they are protected from harassment and those who might want to take them down. They also clarified that once a UAS takes off, FAA regulations govern. Therefore, the National Parks can prohibit one from taking off or landing, but not flying in their airspace. That is good news – but again, check to make sure the FAA is authorizing flight in that area to begin with.
Something that you might not think about, but a UAS is going to be classified as a vehicle for purposes of DUI statutes. The FAA noted that use of UAS while intoxicated (Droning Under the Influence, I guess) is an issue and local law enforcement are not hesitating to prosecute!
Today Senator Schumer called on the FAA to release the UAS regulations that we have all been waiting for. This after two close calls at the White Plains Airport in Westchester. Unfortunately, the regulations wouldn’t do anything to help with this – it is already illegal. Anyone who is flying a UAS should be familiar with Airspace Classes, and particularly around metro New York. The dotted blue circle around the White Plains Airport designates Class D airspace (up to 3,000 feet) and operation in this area requires two-way communication with the Air Traffic Control Tower. Furthermore, if one is operating under the Model Use Guidelines (unless you have explicit authorization from the FAA, you are operating under this rule), ATC must give permission prior to authorization.
There is a lot of misinformation and lack of education out there regarding UAS. Users need to educate themselves, but so does the general public. Legislators in Arkansas have introduced a highly restrictive bill that prohibits a large range of imaging from UAS. I’m not sure it would withstand First Amendment scrutiny.
However, Senator McCain has introduced a bill that will force Custom and Border Protection to account for their current UAS fleet. They have spent almost $500 million implementing a program to protect the border, but have failed woefully at doing so (see the DHS IG report here).