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Why Christmas Hurts Professional UAS Pilots
The new DJI Inspire 1

Why Christmas Hurts Professional UAS Pilots

I’ve now had two friends call me up and tell me about their UAS gifts from the past holidays. I’m happy for them but concerned for those that want UAS flight to be accessible to more people.

The rush to fly by those who are unaware of what the rules are is going to lead to more infractions and we know what comes as a result, that’s right, more rules.

A headline from a newspaper in the UK caught my attention. It said, “Drones: how not to kill people with your Christmas present.” Sadly, that is a real concern.

More workshops are popping up and teaching people how to fly their new drone. And I’ve observed with this new-found flight confidence comes the desire to do more with the craft. But this desire seems to erase the inclination to hunt down the rules of flight as put forth by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Already there are a number of operators who use their drones commercially, but except for just a handful of FAA authorized drone pilots, that is clearly illegal for the rest of drone operators.

Drones are the kind of gift that does not come with a mandatory license. Hobbyists can essentially take them out of the box and go flying. There is no required instruction and that concerns me.

The FAA wants commercial drone pilots to meet certain guidelines to fly in the national air space. They want them to hold a private pilot license and a medical certificate. These qualifications give the FAA the confidence the pilot knows the rules of the road and gives the FAA something to take away when a pilot behaves badly.

Eventually there will be a FAA UAS pilot certificate. But for now there is not.

But in the absence of UAS pilots following the current rules, the only, logical response by the FAA and states to infractions is without a doubt going to more rules and liability for the rest of us.

And to give new UAS pilots a false sense of authority to fly, schools are popping up all over that give graduates certificates to fly after completing some unapproved course. Those are certificates are meaningless in the eyes of the FAA and give UAS pilots no authority.

An unaware drone pilot with their Christmas toy is going to hurt someone or cause them to be sued. That is going to lead to a legal precedent or new laws that will only restrict professional pilots and make it harder for others to fly.

Imagine if scores of people found cars and motorcycles under their Christmas trees and then headed out on our public roads without any instruction. Accidents and chaos would result. Yet that is exactly what is happening with drones.

Here is an excellent video that presents both the new and very cool capabilities of the DJI Inspire 1 and a concern over people understanding how to operate the craft safely and not violate the privacy of others.

It is clear the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to people flying the craft. The question now is what the future is going to look like for professional UAS pilots. And when those requirements and legislation pass, what is going to be the consequence to those that continue to operate in ignorance or disregard of the rules of the UAS world?

For now, here is an excellent website with tips for all pilots.

About Steve Rhode

Steve is an experienced and certificated UAS pilot and aircraft instrument rated pilot. He is also the Chief Pilot with the Wake Forest Fire Department.

3 comments

  1. Since Congress has forbade the FAA from making any rule regarding recreational use of UAV’s, and the only folks they can therefore license and pursue are those LEAST likely to risk their equipment, and MOST likely to have superior knowledge and skill already, just how is this going to help promote safety?

    • There is no doubt the FAA has the full authority to regulate the National Air Space and the recent decision by the NTSB only reinforced that. There is no lack of clarity on that point.

      As long as UAV pilots stay more than 5 NM away from any airport, stay below 400′ AGL, and do not fly for a commercial reason, then the craft remain under the same rules as model aircraft.

  2. I agree, but as your article implies, the wide open door here, will still be the uninformed, ignorant, or simply belligerent, recreational user, which excess regulation toward the professional users will do nothing to close. To require a full scale private pilots license, for a small UAV, being operated within the constraints you stated, (which many aspiring UAV professionals advocate) is absolute nonsense, in the opinion of many private pilots I have asked, and will do nothing but smother a budding industry and a potentially enormous U.S. economic opportunity.