Are Personal Drones Dangerous Enough to be Banned?

November 21st, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

The DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus quadcopter with gimbal-stabilized HD video camera.

The DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus quadcopter with gimbal-stabilized HD video camera.

For months I’ve been wrestling with the urge to get a quadcopter drone for photography, and I would be interested in readers’ opinions on the subject of safety.

When people hear “drone” they often think of the large, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used to fire missiles at terrorists. But there is a new class of very small drones that are inexpensive and are usually used for aerial photography. Currently the most popular is the DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus.

These are legal to operate below 400 ft altitude, but not in the vicinity of airports. The National Park Service has temporarily banned them due to reports of excessive noise and disturbing wildlife (they sound like a swarm of bees when flying).

There are also a few reports of these things hitting people. Here in Alabama, someone operating one at the Alabama football stadium last weekend accidentally hit a pedestrian (who wasn’t injured).

The machines aren’t toys. You have to learn how to fly them (which is pretty easy). They typically weigh several pounds, which isn’t much…unless you smack someone in the head with it at 40 mph.

You don’t just turn them on and fly them. You have to go through a checklist of procedures, to make sure the drone isn’t going to get confused when you send it on its merry way. Sometimes the drones can experience “flyaways”, usually the result of the operator not making sure the drone had sufficient GPS signal to monitor its location and speed.

Now, it would be tempting to say we should just ban all drones, even for pleasure use.

But do we ban bicycles when their use (even for pleasure) leads to many hundreds of injuries, and even a few deaths, among pedestrians each year?

It’s only a matter of time before someone is accidentally killed by one of these things, and there might well be a knee-jerk reaction to ban them altogether.

I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other. I’m curious what you think.


83 Responses to “Are Personal Drones Dangerous Enough to be Banned?”

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  1. Grant says:

    I certainly hope drones are not banned or significantly regulated – they have a ton of potential uses which I think we are only beginning to explore.

    IMO owners should be held liable for any damage or injury they cause, the same as any other vehicle. Just because the operator is not riding in the thing should make a difference in how they’re treated legally. Worst case I could see requiring operators of drones above a certain mass to be insured, in a similar manner to required auto insurance.

    Not allowing them to get in the way of aircraft is reasonable, just as we don’t allow people to drive around on active airport runways (though I doubt they’d present a greater threat than birds do).

    • John Silver says:

      Flying, rotating knives is the best idea evar!

      • yonason says:

        LOL – years ago a neighbor had an R.C helicopter. I was nervous when he flew it when my kids were outside playing outside. Fortunately I didn’t have to worry long, as he crashed it. Again, fortunately, it was into his own house, and not into a neighbor’s, or worse, into a neighbor.

    • Objectivist says:

      The same issue has been present for a long time with RC aircraft. Some of those are fairly crazy – there are jet powered aircraft that hit several hundred miles an hour, and weigh several pounds. That is plenty to cause serious injury or death on impact.

      The key is responsible use, and regulations to insure same. If you’re taking every precaution to avoid injury, which isn’t too hard with these drones, you should be fine. Make sure you have enough charge/fuel for the duration of your flight, don’t fly in excessively windy conditions, and avoid high population density areas.

      Almost everything contains an element of risk. Things shouldn’t be “banned” in most cases. Heck, you can still buy multi-watt laser pointers – I sure can’t see a legitimate use for those, and at close range they can cause instant, permanent eye damage.

    • Bender3003 says:

      These ‘drones’ are simply model airplanes or helicopters and most towns have ordinances against flying them inside the town limits. In my town our club goes to a nearby park to fly. I am happy that building and flying model planes or ‘drones’ are beginning to catch the interest with the public again. I notice a lot of young kids coming out to fly lately. I would rather see them outside than inside playing video games.

    • Steve DelHomme says:

      Owners are legally liable for any damage.

  2. nigel says:

    It is no different from a powered model aeroplane.

    If you are brought up well, you will know how to be reasonably careful. If you are not brought up well – or suffer from some kind of basic irresponsibility – you will probably hurt somebody at some time in your life. These little drones seem well down on the list of possible mechanisms for causing harm.

    • John Silver says:

      The traditional RC model pilots never, ever fly outside their own “airports”.
      They are responsible and know the dangers.

      • geran says:

        Years ago, I knew of a model airplane club that had to disband because the cost of liability insurance got too expensive.

  3. Jane says:

    They will be ideal for terrorists purposes, but its hard to see how they can be banned.

    • paul says:

      A couple of kilos of C4 , a drone and a football stadium.
      Mayby they should be banned

      • andrew says:

        A) there are only a few drones on the market for private consumption that can carry more than a few pounds of cargo. it would take many pounds of C4 – much more than any drone on the market could carry – to do enough structural damage to a stadium to collapse it. (one block of C4 weighs about 1.25lbs)
        B) even if such drones existed, it would be much easier to just drive a truck full of c4 into a stadium if that’s what a terrorist really wanted to do.
        C) also even if such drones existed, the radio equipment needed to operate a drone reliably in a stadium filled with thousands of people using their cell phones would have to be very advanced and require a lot of custom modifications.

        basically what I’m saying is stop being such a sensationalist and think rationally about what you say before you speak/write it.

    • alphagruis says:

      Well, as usual, drones may be used for good or bad purposes.

      Intriguing recent drone circling phenomenon in France:

      http://www.english.rfi.fr/france/20141101-mystery-drones-seen-circling-french-power-plants-environment-energy-security

  4. Roy, I have a drone, and even a video: “http://youtu.be/904a1akDBSQ”. It’s a tiny thing with an appalling camera which won’t fly in anything but absolute still air (hence the failed day in the fog).

    I’m desperate to take some photos of Scottish archaeological sites, but unfortunately, I simply cannot afford the money to own a drone. So, please do buy one … then when your’re fed up you can donate it me 🙂

    Mike http://mons-graupius.co.uk

    • Lewis says:

      I have a friend who has taken to building them. I ordered one from him. It will be used to look down on the local land, searching for deer and other miscreants.

      Regulated??? For what? In order to give another government agent an excuse to interfere in your business?

      By the way, I expect the cost to be less than $400.

  5. They could become incredibly annoying from background noise and from never knowing whether they are filming you in your private activities.

    • Mark Luhman says:

      The simple answer to filming you private activities is curtains. Anytime you are in a public space, which outside is, since you do not control the airspace above you, that battle was lost a long time ago, outside anywhere is not private! If you want you private activities private, make sure you do them in a private space, not a public space. Curtains help a lot in keeping a private space private.

      • Fuck Drones says:

        mark luhman is a perv

        • Mark Luhman says:

          You are truly a moron, I dont make a habit of looking into windows, but I for damn sure make sure my blinds/curtains are closed. So prev like you dont see what I do not want you to see.

      • LOL.

        I was thinking of more than the sort of activity that could be hidden by curtains.

        Every day, all of us behave in ways that could be criticised or maliciously misinterpreted by hostile minds.

        That is why surveillance societies are so hated.

        • Mark Luhman says:

          True, but be aware curtains only foil the amateurs, if someone wants to get you in an activity that you may not want out, there is not much you can do about it. So remember if you don’t believe God is watching be aware that we are at a point someone else may be! Like it or not that where we are. Live with that knowledge. Fortunately most of us don’t warrant that kind of surveillance.

          • Chris Schoneveld says:

            If someone wants to sun bath naked in a 10 acre garden, which is well fenced and private, I don’t think he/she wants to be photographed by the drone of his/her pervert neighbour, who then posts a zoomed in photo of his/her jewels on the internet. Curtains are irrelevant.

      • Francisco says:

        There is also a simpler and more fun answer. If you ever have drones gliding around your backyard when you are about to get into the hot tub: http://www.ebay.ca/itm/like/131084681606?limghlpsr=true&hlpv=2&ops=true&viphx=1&hlpht=true&lpid=116

        • Wasabi Ginger says:

          Eeeh. Sling-shots, perhaps for the sport, but if you want am absolutely certain “find-fix-finish” result you need the

          12 ga – 3″ Uranium Drone Load – 1 3/8 oz – Tacnition – 5 Rounds

          From the description:
          “Specially formulated propellant is capable of launching 9 pellets of depleted uranium rounds up to 1 km straight up into the air. With accurate shot placement, this armor piercing buckshot will disable vital systems on modern military drones. At minimum, the force of impact will disable navigation systems, but in over 60% of our field tests, the drones were incapable of remaining airborne after contact with our Anti-Drone Loads.”

          From Lucky Gunner:
          http://www.luckygunner.com/12ga-3-uranium-drone-load-tacnition-5-rounds

          Available since early April 2013.

          • Mark Luhman says:

            Highly illegal, what come up must come down, unless shot straight up, the downward trajectory may be fatal it you were to hit someone. Idiots that think cellebration the new year by firing rifles into the have killed innocent people often a child!

      • Mark Luhman says:

        Hey idiots, have you seen the pictures of the Google satellites? The spy satellites can look into your windows from a near horizontal angle! Yes curtains are needed, if you do not want you privates shown in public! Only idiots would think public space is private your backyard is not private, your section of land is not private. This conversation about drones is twenty years to late! We have been been recorded in any number of way whether we like it or not. I am not paranoid I only understand where we are at in today world! If you think your backyard is private you are diluted, if you think your house is private without blinds you are diluted. If you think what you display on your monitor with closed window shades cannot be pickup but proper surveillance equipment you are diluted. Dito for you conservation, what you type on your keyboard, It not that I am paranoid it that I have aware what is possible. Drones by amateurs are a minor problem. Are you people that ignorant of what is possible in todays world? Is it just ignorance or is it just stupidity? Ignorance can be fixed stupidity cannot!

        • Francisco says:

          I’d still go for the sling shot. Although I might not hit a satellite, I think they fly too fast…. but I’d still try it!

        • John Moore says:

          Hey, idiot, Google satellites and other spy satellites cannot see much if they look into your windows, because they barely have the spatial resolution to see the windows at all. You must be another of the fools who think that the high resolution Google Earth/Maps pictures of your neighborhood were made with spy satellites (that have to orbit over 100 miles up). They weren’t – they were made from aircraft flying a lot lower.

  6. rah says:

    Well yes but the best are well out of the price range of the average Joe and even most Police Departments. Here is what is considered the best tactical UAV available in the world today: http://www.strategypage.com/military_photos/20141118222647.aspx

    “it is not cheap” they say? I’d say that’s an understatement at about $400,000 per ounce. Platinum spot price Wed when I checked was $1,200 per ounce and Gold was at $1,194.

  7. Fonzarelli says:

    I was recently run over by a cyclist flying the wrong way down bourbon street here in the french quarter. (and to add insult to injury, I was accused of deliberately walking into the path of the bike by a passer bye) I didn’t feel a thing though… and it was fun watching the wrong doer sprawled out in the middle of bourbon. Do these drones have a mechanism by which they avoid hitting objects? If not, then how can they NOT be banned? Otherwise they’ll be randomly knocking off people (and other things) where e’er they go… AND then there’s the issue of privacy. Does anybody really want these things buzzing around taking pictures of you in your own back yard? (or your family?)

    • Mark Luhman says:

      See my post above, you back yard is not a private space, it has not been for since the before the Wright brothers, Balloons removed that privacy a long time ago.

      • Fuck Drones says:

        perv

        • Mark Luhman says:

          You are truly a moron, I don’t make a habit of looking into windows, but I for damn sure make sure my blinds/curtains are closed. So prev like you don’t see what I do not want you to see.

      • Fonzarelli says:

        Mark, when was the last time that a balloon flew through your back yard?

        • Lewis says:

          I would like to point out that most privately owned drones will require line of sight controls. They won’t be able to do much real snooping. Better to worry about your local, or state, or federal gendarmes who, using your money, buy very high priced methods to spy on your illicit, legal or anti-government activities.

          Have you ever heard about police cruising the neighborhood using infrared to check on what people might be doing behind the walls of their homes?

        • Mark Luhman says:

          What do you think can be seen from a hot air balloon and a pair of binoculars or a modern digital cameras. I have a photos of the toilets of ad the have way point of the Grand Canyon, if you we exiting it I would be able to identify you, it was a 8 meg pixel camera, it you were crossing the suspension bridge across the Colorado ditto. What about a plan at ten thousand feet. Have you seen the Google satellite photos of people sunbathing alla nature. My reference to balloons moron was the battle for privacy in you backyard ended when they started to use balloons. I did not think I had to be that exact.

  8. jimc says:

    If there were strong personal and criminal liability in the event of mishap or intentional malevolence (e.g. a criminal using one to case the neighborhood, or invasion of privacy), then I have no complaint as long as the pilot can be identified somehow.

    • Fonzarelli says:

      Do these things actually have what you’d call a “pilot” though? If they just go flying off on their own, eventually you can expect them to hit some one or thing. (this with out ANY actual negligence on the part of the owner…)

  9. Beta Blocker says:

    It is only a matter of time before one of the larger versions of these cheap drones, one flown by an irresponsible or inexperienced operator, brings down an airliner. Only after this has happened will the serious questions be asked.

  10. Hans Erren says:

    Mount a weapon on it and you have the perfect killing machine.

    • Mark Luhman says:

      Actually humans have been perfect killing machine for a very long time. We are only a few creatures on earth that have been able to kill beyond our reach for a very long time.

      • Mark Luhman says:

        Correction I said “We are only a few creatures on earth that have been able to kill beyond our reach for a very long time.” should say “We are only one of few creatures on earth that have been able to kill beyond our reach, and us humans have been for a very long time.”

  11. Drewski says:

    Drones worry me. Can you believe that now over 1/3 of all military aircraft in the US are drones? True. And that is up from just 5% a decade ago. Just a few months ago, an Australian created a drone that is capable of flying into an open bedroom window and shoot a bullet (projectile). Who wants to bet that the next mass bombing in a market place won’t come from a quadcopter drone flown expertly into the most advantageous position to cause maximum carnage?

  12. As a lapsed licensed private pilot, I’d say trained pilot proficiency goes a long way toward protecting people and property on the ground. Moreover, to a pilot in an airplane there’s a serious personal interest in not killing one’s self in a crash, thus people and property on the ground are protected by every pilot’s selfishness. Neither deterrent – training and threat of death – exists when one can just go buy a drone and start remotely flying over it people and property. I suspect drones’ owners can’t even be traced unless the things are voluntarily registered. If you don’t trust this analysis, just think of all the nut-cake drivers one encounters on the nation’s freeways — especially here in California — and then imagine how crazy they’d be if they were sitting somewhere else while remotely driving unoccupied and unidentifiable cars.

  13. Alan says:

    When you have this type of product, which can be used to spy on or attack people (possibly unintentionally), you need to have countermeasures available to knock them out of the sky when they appear uninvited in your backyard.

    A number of different types of countermeasures can be contemplated. As Dr. Spencer mentioned, these drones rely on GPS which is easily (but not legally) jammed.

    Physical countermeasures can also be very effective. These can range from the basics, e.g. a shotgun, to thin lines which can interact with the drones rotors.

    Directed energy weapons are probably not yet at the necessary maturity level.

    I’m sort of joking here, but it’s pretty obvious that these things could really get out of hand…

    • Frank K. says:

      Unwelcome drone activity in or near my backyard will revive my childhood interest in model rocketry (with drone-disabling payloads)!!

  14. Fuck Drones says:

    Fuck Drones

  15. Drones that ordinary people can buy have a legal classification in the US – model aircraft. Radio controlled model airplanes have been around for 40 or more years. I think radio controlled helicopters have been around for a while.

    As for taking video from model aircraft: It has been easy to put a camcorder in one or attached to one ever since compact camcorders became easily available, which I think was in the mid 1990s.

    What’s new is small battery-powered quadrotors with electronics that make them easy to control. They could have been made 20 years ago. Perhaps these are now newly becoming popular because now there are ones that can be controlled by smartphones.

    The regulatory rules for model aircraft, which have force of law, include only flying where the pilot has line of sight, and the pilot must have control. Autopilot mechanisms may be used, including to return an aircraft to base or to a safe point in a safe manner if pilot control is lost. However, the pilot is responsible for directing the aircraft and ensuring its safe flight.

    I think current law is largely good enough. It is illegal to fly a model aircraft through someone’s home via open windows because there is a requirement to maintain line of sight.

    Another legal requirement of model aircraft is that ones that have autopilot or autostabilization means or a pilot-view camera are limited to 16 pounds and 70 MPH. Other model aircraft are restricted from exceeding 55 pounds, and I expect this restriction is great.

    Useful links:

    https://www.faa.gov/uas/publications/model_aircraft_operators/

    https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.modelaircraft.org/files/105.PDF&sa=U&ei=ASpwVMm8LeTGsQTNjYGwAQ&ved=0CAUQFjAA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNGxUD8-atNrpXjnk3wFA14My_0Q-A

    I could find others in the modelaircraft.org site (Academy of Model Aeronautics) mentioning need to stay below 400 feet, and to coordinate with airports less than 5 miles away (or preferably stay at least 5 miles away from airports).

    Certainly, guns cause a lot more trouble than model aircraft ever will. In post-Prohibition America, I think that new laws (other than closing big loopholes, such as the blatant “gun show loophole”) are not much of an answer to terrorism and crime. I think that closing the “gun show loophole” will merely make a little dent in gun crime, and more against common crime than terrorism. (I fear common crime more than terrorism.)

    Getting America to behave better seems to me to require a kind of national leadership that seems impossible to me soon in these times of America being demoralized and balkanized.

    In light of this, I expect new laws on personal drones to have reduction of flying of them being mainly by compliance by the lawful. I think that a ban on personally owned drones in post-Prohibition America will fly hardly better than the 55 MPH speed limit did.

    • Mike M says:

      No, the primary distinction is the feedback a drone operator receives compared to that for an R/C flyer. An R/C flyer is watching his aircraft – and ALL the airspace around it – with his own eyes DIRECTLY. The drone operator is watching the remote return of a video camera as the feedback which is not going to reveal a med flight helicopter about to collide with his toy and kill everyone on board.

  16. Gras Albert says:

    Roy

    I use a drone for video recording of rugby games, the unique perspective allows the coaching group to identify, demonstrate and correct field position errors improving individual and team performance.

    As has been mentioned these devices are covered by existing legislation/regulation for model aircraft, and if used in accordance with those regulations pose little threat to ground dwellers 🙂

    Some are modified by owners and as a result become a significantly greater threat, e.g. replacing the PU blades as shipped by the manufacturer with specialist carbon fibre blades (as is common in the model aircraft industry) turns a bruised finger into a severe cut or even partial amputation.

    However, please keep the risk in perspective, 34,000+ people died in road collisions in the USA in 2012, against that statistic, the threat from drones is trivial

    • Fonzarelli says:

      Shouldn’t that be “albert gras”? (i live in new orleans) I assume your rugby game was played on private property; I don’t see how any body can have a problem with that. The trouble comes when they veer in to public spaces. All kinds of legal issues could arise with that. We’ll see what happens…

  17. ossqss says:

    Doc, go for it!

    Some folks will take offense when a flying camera is overhead, so common sense should be involved when flying them. There were several issues at the beaches across the country this last year with respect to such.

    What ever you do don’t search youtube for a prototype quadrotor drone with machinegun. LOL

    Good luck!

    • Trouble with cameras flying overhead? What about news reporting helicopters? What about jetliner passengers with ordinary consumer-grade digital cameras that have 3x-4x zoom by optical means alone, and 16x, maybe more, with a zoom boost by digital zoom? Some of these airliner passengers may have digital cameras of “prosumer” or “pro” grade, with telephoto lenses.

      If you can see an aircraft from your bedroom, even if it is a few thousand feet away, possibly over a mile: Someone aboard may have a digital camera that can look into bedrooms and yards, and onto rooftops, with magnification power that is typical of telescopes that come with tripods. One of these days, some airliner passenger is going to record video of a couple doing “bedroom activities” with open curtains, on a rooftop, in a fenced backyard, or in some wild area – and put the video on YouTube.

      In light of this, I am in favor of abundance of quadrotors with cameras. I see this as increasing awareness of college students that what they do outdoors is not private. When a parking lot party gets wild, the partiers are not looking for cameras peeking through adjacent windows, or “spy cameras” that people are wearing. But if a little model aircraft that sounds like a beehive flies overhead, the partiers (if not too drunk to care) get worried about photo and video recording – as if model aircraft are their only threat to being put on YouTube in embarassing ways.

      What about spy cameras? Nowadays, camcorders of some sort are available in form of pens to put in a shirt pocket, and eyeglass frames. How about cellphones, which have cameras (with video mode) about the size of a pea, whose apertures are about the size of a small grain of sand? How about one of these puppies in a coat, jacket, or shirt pocket with a convenient BB-sized hole?

  18. Steve says:

    I’d like one too…!

  19. Darren says:

    I think you will love drone photography. I am an avid RC flyer and I act as Ground Crew for a good friend of mine who produces beautiful amateur videos with both a quad copter and a wing.

    I think flying these things over people is irresponsible.

    But you can do a lot of fun photography away from crowds and be safe.

  20. Kasuha says:

    Regulated yes, banned no. Different safety and noise requirements should be in place for drones used in nature, for controlled sport events, in cities, eventually to lift and move some payload. But the potential is too great and it would be a waste to just ban them because somebody got injured or because somebody is afraid their neighbor might spy on them.
    Watching a video taken by a drone flying in the middle of fireworks exploding was one of my greatest experiences and there is just no way anyone would be allowed to go there and record it personally.
    There are endless possibilities for which they could be used, photography and filming are just two of them. They could be even used to save lives and for science measurements in hard to reach or dangerous places.

  21. Will Johns says:

    If they’re o.k. for Martha, they’re o.k. for me.

  22. Glenn says:

    I don’t have a problem with them as long as they aren’t used to overfly private property that isn’t yours. In the country, drones can be useful to keep track of cattle or other livestock. They can also be used to check on equipment on farms and ranches without having to personally get in your truck and go there, especially in bad weather.

    Had a neighbor that had a drone spy on his teenage girls that were swimming this past summer, and needless to say that drone met it’s end. The owner was prosecuted under eavesdropping laws and it was determined that the land owner was within his rights to shoot it down. The owner of the drone was found guilty and paid a hefty fine.

    • Fonzarelli says:

      MARK LUHMAN TAKE NOTE…

      • Mark Luhman says:

        If up skirt cameras are not illegal how in the hell do you think photographing teenage girls in a pool would be. If the person had been in a hot air balloon of a ultra light airplane, the land owner would have had no right to shoot it down any more that you have the right to shoot down a spray plane that over sprays your property. As far as the above case goes it depends on the state laws, I expect in the future such drones will be able to photograph such activity from more that a mile or more away. As for as that land owner goes is he aware of what Google satellite is recording? If the timing is right his girls are being recorded like it of not. Ditto for God only know what countries spy satellite. I assume somewhere there is more than one person and in more than one country that has a wall full of teenage girls in their pools. With swimsuits or less. That the reality, like it or not, the only difference is those men/women will remain anonymous to the most part. You and I may not like it but that the way it is and there is not a thing we can do about it!

  23. Streetcred says:

    Climate drones, Al, Barry, Mann,’Hey_ho’, et al, should all be banned … there is no telling the damage that these drones will do when they should lose power and fall upon an unsuspecting citizen. It is not a question of “if”, but “when”.

  24. Gerry Smith says:

    My son has had a DJI Phantom for 14 months. It is equipped with a GoPro 3 and a Zenmuse gimbal to stabilize the camera. He shot this video of the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur the first week he had it. http://vimeo.com/77721400 He is a professional videographer and he has taken some amazing videos. The drone is no different than a remote control airplane. You should be able to get a permit to fly the drones at national parks from the park ranger station. In high use areas, the number of permits could be limited on a daily basis. The National Park System totals over 81,000 square miles which is larger than each of these states:
    West Virginia
    Maryland
    Vermont
    New Hampshire
    Massachusetts
    New Jersey
    Hawaii
    Connecticut

    Surely several videographers should be allowed to video out Beautiful National Parks each day. There are so few Rangers and such vast areas, people are going to video natures beauty anyway.

  25. ossqss says:

    Here is a silent rotor free option Doc!

    http://youtu.be/ZBR-ay6KZMQ

  26. Adam Gallon says:

    Difference between one of these drones & a model helicopter is?

    • Fonzarelli says:

      A model helicopter is something that you take down to the park with your nine year old son, fly it around for a while, the dog barks at it and then you go home. A drone is something that you send through your neighbor’s back yard to get pictures of his wife sun bathing in her new bikini…

    • Mark Luhman says:

      Proper equipt model helicopter can do the same thing. No difference the same thing just most people assume drones have cameras. Which they do since it makes them flying them easier.

  27. Rolan Clark says:

    Really question the invasion of privacy issue.

  28. ri says:

    I have flown model airplanes with and without cameras mounted on the for several years. The existing law is sufficient to stop bad behavior assuming it is enforced. The problem is that the FAA does not have cops on the ground to enforce the law, if they trained police to identify illegal operation then there would be no problem.
    Spying on your Nabors is illegal if you use a drone or a step ladder and the rule for all RC models is dont fly over people. The les known cousin of this rule is dont fly over anything you dont want to pay for when you crash. And you will crash!

    ri

  29. Dan Murray says:

    License and tax fees through the DMV. Flying an unregistered drone brings a citation much like speeding, which is expensive.

  30. Hannes says:

    Somehow this reminds me to the time where seatbelts where not required… the more people use it the more regulation will follow. I think a big pressure should be put on the manufacturers of this drones, so that they comply with N possible systems that make it so safe that it won’t crash onto a baby even if you want to 😉

  31. chris brandow says:

    I think that regulation should be limited to three specific issues:

    1. The use in and around crowded, public places/events.
    2. How to handle nuisance issues. These things are often loud.
    3. Ensuring that the owner/operator is responsible for damage/harm caused.

  32. chris brandow says:

    I have a buddy that’s got a fancy one for work and the challenges he faces is that they are very smart, but still have plenty of unexpected “stupidity”.

    If he flies them out a certain distance out and around large objects, if the drone hits “low battery” , it is smart enough to fly itself back, but does so in a straight line, so you better make sure there isn’t a building in the way. 🙂

  33. Walt Allensworth says:

    I want one.
    We do sailing vacations in the Caribbean and how cool would it be to video your boat under full sail!

  34. David L. Hagen says:

    Exposed blades is an inherent safety hazard for UAVs that can so easily be flown into crowds etc.
    Far better to have enclosed blades for this class of UAV.

  35. Mike M says:

    To whoever ‘thinks’ that the metal parts in these toys cannot do as much damage as goose bones did to the fan blades of US Air flight 1549 – let’s see you eat them.

  36. Patagon says:

    Not banned, but after seen this video-article in the NYT, I agree that regulation is necessary:
    http://www.nytimes.com/video/technology/100000003255995/drones-misbehaving.html?playlistId=1194811622271

  37. Erroneous says:

    Hey Roy,
    I have a Phantom Vision II and Phantom Vision II+. You can get some excellent photographs and videos. Currently you cannot (legally) do commercial photography in the US. The proposed commercial regulations from FAA (Who controls all airspace, even over private property) are due out the first quarter of next year for small UAS (55 pounds and under). They will likely require at least ground school and may require full pilot certification for commercial use. They are not allowed to make regulations for hobbyists currently. There are no hobbyist regulations, but there are some voluntary guidelines that say you should stay under 400 feet, not fly near airports (the distance depends on the size of airport), fly during daylight hours and keep the UAS within the operator’s line of sight (and visual range). The FAA’s main concern is safety, particularly of other aircraft (manned aircraft ALWAYS have the right of way, but generally shouldn’t be flying below 400 feet. But you have to watch out anyway, particularly for low flying helicopters such as the coast Guard choppers at the beach). The big difference I see in traditional RC and the quads is their intended use. I am not an RC hobbyist per se even though I have flown both fixed wing planes and helicopters in the past. I am however, an amateur photographer, which is primarily why I brought the Quads. The AMA guidelines generally have folks fly in a field away from all people, which usually would not be ideal for photos, so the quads are likely to by flying closer to the public, so eventually they will probably have to do something even for hobbyists because the AMA guidelines will not work for this new purpose. Regarding the privacy issues, those apply to drones just like any other camera system. Anything the paparazzi can’t do legally, you can’t do with a UAS. The Phantom Visions are designed for panoramic views with wide angle lenses, so there is really no way to surreptitiously video anyone. You simply have to be too close. I always hear people say they will shoot them down, but I was surprised to find out that it’s a Federal crime (in the US) to shoot any aircraft (which even small UAS are now defined as of last month). Even though the FAA is the sole authority of the National Air Space, most authorities are not aware of the law, so depending where you are, you could get hassled (Especially in New York apparently) and if operating irresponsibly, they can get you on a general endangering the public law. Most people I have talked to while flying (including police, A Federal Judge and the general public) are usually more interested in how it works and don’t bother you as long a you are flying responsibly and not endangering or annoying people.

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