New legislation regulates drone use

With new drone regulation, the sky is no longer the limit.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems, more commonly known as drones, are aerial vehicles without a human aboard. Drones, originally used in military operations, have widely expanding applications in commercial, scientific, and recreational fields. But with this proliferation of uses, comes concern over safety and aerial ethics.

For this reason, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a series of new regulations, which came into effect on August 29, that limit drone activity and place several prerequisites on remotely piloting an unmanned aircraft.

The new regulations are designed to minimize risks to other aircrafts, as well as people and property on the ground. They require the pilot to be at least sixteen years of age and have a remote pilot certificate by passing an aeronautical knowledge test.

Acccopy-of-img_4703ording to junior Joey Wood, the process of obtaining a license is relatively simple, and requires no physical test.

“They made it recently that you have to get registered, so everyone is supposed to have that,” Wood said. “It’s really easy.  You go online to the website and there’s a code.  It costs five dollars, and it lasts two years. There’s no flying test, but you can’t use (the drone) for commercial licensing. You have to get a different license for that.”

The regulations also set operational limits such as height and speed restrictions. Drones are only allowed to be operated during the day, and must be kept within a visual line of sight without the aid of any device.The rules also state that drones may not fly over anyone not directly involved in the operation. They set a maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level and a maximum speed on 100 mph. These measures have been put in place primarily for safety reasons.

According to senior Peyton Krell, the agency’s new regulations are logical and should be followed.

“The people who created the new regulations are very smart people,” Krell said. “Anyone who gets appointed to be in charge of deciding the rules behind drones definitely knows what they are talking about. I respect the new rules. I wouldn’t want to walk outside and see a thirteen year old kid flying a 30 lbs machine with four carbon fiber blades above a large group of people.”

Wood said that he happy with the newest addition to the bylaws, but is not sure how the agency will enforce them.

“I’m glad they put them in place,” Wood said. “But I feel like it’s going to be difficult them to follow through. It’s out in the open. It’s going to be hard to control.”

According to the agency’s initial estimates, the new regulations could generate over 82 billion dollars for the U.S economy over the next ten years. These rules are also set to mobilize new innovations safely, stimulate job growth (an estimated 100,000 new jobs over the next decade), and advance discoveries in research and science.

In a press release on August 29, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx commented on the potential of drones to shape the economy.

“People are captivated by the limitless possibilities unmanned aircraft offer, and they are already creating business opportunities in this exciting new field,” Foxx said. “These new rules are our latest step toward transforming aviation and society with this technology in very profound ways.”

The FAA has currently registered 20,000 drones for commercial use and expects nearly 600,000 to be registered within a year.

Athletic Director Scott Stemple said that the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) has banned drones at Greater Miami Conference (GMC) events due to this safety hazard.

“We’ve made the choice as a district and as the GMC to follow this policy based on the OHSAA recommendation,” Stemple said. “We’re not going to allow them in our regular venues. The GMC has taken it a step further; all the schools in the conference have agreed to not allow drones. And it’s really just about safety.”

Although the OHSAA had banned drones from tournaments, Mason Lacrosse coach Paul Limpert said that drones can be very practical during home practices.

“It is very useful because you can gain a perspective on player positioning that you otherwise could not get,” Limpert said. “Using the football stadium stands and filming down on practice and games is pretty good, but the direct overhead gives you exact movement angles and positioning that you just cannot get from an oblique angle.”

The FAA’s latest regulations exempt only news organizations due to protection under the First Amendment right to to press. The agency is also offering a process to waive some of the restrictions if it is demonstrated that the flight will be conducted safely under a waiver.

In addition to laws concerning operational hazards, Krell said there is much debate over the legality and ethics of flying drones.

“Most of the (FAA) laws are about who can fly it and where you can fly it, but there’s still a lot of gray area,” Krell said. “Like if I own my house, I own the land, but I don’t own the air above it. So can I fly there or can I not? So that’s what they’re still trying to figure out one hundred percent.”

According to the agency’s initial estimates, the new regulations could generate over 82 billion dollars for the U.S economy over the next ten years. These rules are also set to mobilize new innovations safely, stimulate job growth (an estimated 100,000 new jobs over the next decade), and advance discoveries in research and science.

In a press release on August 29, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx commented on the potential of drones to shape the economy.

“People are captivated by the limitless possibilities unmanned aircraft offer, and they are already creating business opportunities in this exciting new field,” Foxx said. “These new rules are our latest step toward transforming aviation and society with this technology in very profound ways.”

Krell said that despite the concern over safety, ultimately, drones pose no threat provided the pilot is skilled enough to fly it.
“Drones are designed to be safe,” Krell Said. “Yes, they look very intimidating. Yes, they do crash into trees and buildings, but these are all user errors. If the battery gets too low, it will fly back to the exact sport it took off from. If it is getting out of range, it will tell you. It would never fall out of the sky for no reason. Someone who knows what they are doing should have no trouble whatsoever.”

Photo by Ryan D’Souza 

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