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Drone Regulations That Actually Make Sense

Eric Lancheres
10.18.15
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Drone technology is advancing so quickly that standard regulations are still lagging behind. Designed for RC pilots and model airplanes, the old rules are outdated and somewhat inadequate. Even worse, many people purchasing drones don't even educate themselves on safety which has prompted the "Know Before You Fly" education campaign in association with the FAA. Here's what you need to know if you just purchased a drone or are thinking of getting into the hobby.

Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are the basics:

- Do not fly above 400ft
- Always fly the aircraft in line of sight
- You should not interfere with any manned vehicle or aircraft
- Do not fly near airports or restricted areas (5-mile radius)
- Do not fly near people, property, wildlife.
- Don't be careless, reckless or under the influence while flying.
Source: FAA Small Model Aircraft

This current set of rules is somewhat vague and difficult to enforce which is why regulators are scrambling to create new rules for drone (quadcopters, tricopters, hexacopters) under 55 pounds. These will dictate what you can and cannot do with your drone which is why it is important that the future regulations are fair while protecting the population.

Striking a balance

On the one side, we want to promote innovation. Industries such as shipping, real estate photography, surveying and agriculture can benefit from drone advancements. Imagine a world where your packages are delivered by drone!

On the other hand, the last thing we want is someone flying a drone into a protected airspace while planes are taking off or a drone crashing into a crowd at a festival. Unfortunately, these things are happening right now because the best drones on the market can be purchased by anyone, regardless of experience or age. While this is great, it also leaves the door wide open for abuse.

drone flying

The Latest Proposal: Too Much?

The latest proposal is that all drones must be registered before use. Seeing as some enthusiasts own 10-15 drones, I can't see this being very practical, and it won't get us any closer to achieving our primary goal: safety. This would also be next-to-impossible to enforce because people are building drones from scratch in their basements.

Instead, I would like to propose that we treat drones like bicycles. We should create a clear set of laws and regulations so they can function within into society while remembering that some people just want one for fun. Otherwise we're going to end up with companies like this that are trying to create anti-drone guns.

What should our priorities be with regards to drones?
  1. We want to keep people safe
  2. We want to keep our property safe
  3. We want to maintain our privacy
  4. We want to keep noise levels to a minimum
  5. We want to promote innovation.
If we can satisfy all those requirements, then we should be in a good place. We don't want to hinder any potentially new industries, but we do want to minimize the drone-related accidents.

The Future Of Drones

Here's what I believe makes sense for the future of drones:

Rule #1 Avoid flying above people and animals.
Rule #2 If your drone suddenly stops working, it must crash in a safe environment that you can access.
Rule #3 Your drone must yield and respect all other vehicles.
Rule #4 Your drone cannot be used as a tool to invade someone's privacy.

Essentially it comes down to common sense. Even the most experience drone pilot will tell you that sometimes the RC drones misbehave and accidents to happen. As long as you're flying on public property and obeying rule #2, then everything else should fall into place.

Do you agree or disagree ? Let us know what kind of rules you would like to see around drones in the comments.

Photography credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/myfrozenlife/9509729338/