Even though the title finishes with Public Perception, I’ll talk about it first since I feel it is so important (“Primacy and Recency” – people remember the first and last thing you say and forget what is in-between). We don’t have proposed rules from the FAA, and instead need to deal with vague “recreational use” guidelines and random local guidance. I wrote recently about how Australia is tightening UAS guidelines and now below about the Philippines. I also discuss a number of investigations into UAS use in D.C. On the bright side, enthusiasts are starting training sessions and groups like UAS America Fund are trying to push the regulators in the right direction.
Battles are won today not by the side who is “right,” but by the side which wins over public and media opinion. Those who approve of UAS use should realize there are valid concerns by opponents and that there are people who are using UAS in inadvisable situations. I applaud the groups who are educating the public, both through training and awareness.
We also should be sensitive to uses that, while justifiable, are not advisable. Even disregarding the D.C. UAS ban, one should realize that the public will see a UAS on theNational Mall or outside an NFL game as a terrorist threat, not as a benign user getting “cool” pictures of the Mall or kick-off. If you are using your UAS in a populated neighborhood, realize that your neighbors might question your motives. I am not saying don’t use it in your neighborhood, but be aware of view from the other side. Perhaps it would be better to organize and publicize a UAS training event one weekend at a public park (after checking with your municipality). This will raise awareness and help show others that you are using your UAS ethically. I know I am preaching to the choir in regard to many, but it can’t be said enough.
Most importantly, always check to be sure that your use is legal. Even if you think it qualifies under the FAA’s recreational use guidelines, be sure you are not running afoul of local law or regulation.
A group of UAS advocates ran a nationwide training event last weekend called “Drone for the Holidays.” A group in Georgia, Bartow County Model Aviation, put on a nice event, as did a group in Richmond, VA. Australia requires training before one can fly a drone commercially and the proposed regulation from UAS America Fund requires some rudimentary practice before commercial use. This is a great effort by enthusiasts to educate users about the safe use of UAS and the public about how users are filling the void to make the use of UAS safe. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go. There have been over 20 investigations into drone flights in the D.C. area in the past few months, included around Reagan National Airport and just before a Redskins game. Even though the FAA allows recreational use in many circumstances, use of UAS in D.C. (in brief: a 10 mile radius around Reagan, see here for details) or in National Parks (Policy Memorandum here) is completely prohibited. A foreign user was stopped this summer by Park Police for use of a drone near the Lincoln Memorial (Incident Report). He claimed ignorance and got off, but I would not expect to be so lucky.
The big news in the UAS world is the nonevent – the FAA’s failure to issue proposed rules by the end of 2014. In a response to an Indianapolis news station’s email, the FAA replied: “We are continuing to work with our administration colleagues to finish the rule. I am sorry to say I do not have a date for you.” There is nothing to indicate that the rules are near completion.
In international news, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has issued implementing guidelines for the use of UAS in that country. This was prompted by a number of unauthorized UAS flights. Fines range from about $6,500 to $11,000.
There is a lot going on in the world of UAS, just not from the FAA. In the meantime, fill he void and educate the public. If you are aware of local regulations that I should share, please email them to me.