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droneMOAB, Utah– The drone video featured at the top of this story, shot by yours truly, demonstrates the unique view and stunning visuals you can document when your camera is granted the gift of flight.

Drone video, drone journalism, drone deliveries, drone inspections and so many more drone-related enterprises mean the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is taking the ordinary citizen and emerging professionals to new heights.  It’s just not for the military.

Amateurs enjoy mastering the devices and creating stunning videos.  We enjoy their stunning visuals shared on YouTube and social media.  However, the visionaries in business and enterprise see a much bigger picture.

NBC used drones to catch the action at the Rio Games.  Amazon, Wal-Mart and other retailers want drones to deliver packages.   Industrial agriculture wants drones for monitoring crops.  However, UAV’s are raising issues about privacy, safety and ethics.

In July, a Connecticut father and son headed for a court showdown with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over whether the agency can force them to disclose information about drones shown in two YouTube videos firing a gun and deploying a flame thrower in their backyard.  Drone technology, companies and individuals are pushing the limits of what we can and what we should be doing with UVAs.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said people are “captivated by the limitless possibilities unmanned aircraft offer.”

drongThe few thousand commercial drones that had been granted waivers to operate before the new rules were issued have been used to monitor inspect bridges and transmission lines, assist firefighters, film movies, and create real estate and wedding videos, among dozens of other uses.

Federal regulators have been scrambling to keep up with the technology and an industry that can create significant economic impact.

The FAA estimates there will be 600,000 commercial drone aircraft operating in the U.S. this year under the agencies new rules issued last spring.

In general, five key FAA rules apply to drones weighing 55 pounds or less, and require commercial operators to:

  1. Keep the drone within sight at all times.
  2. Keep drones from flying over people not involved in their operation.
  3. Limit drone operations to the hours from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset.
  4. Limit speed to no more than 100 mph.
  5. Fly no higher than 400 feet.

Drone operators must also pass a test of their aeronautical knowledge administered by the FAA. More than 3,000 people had registered with the FAA to take the test as of Monday.

The Drone Association expects the industry to take off, literally and figuratively, creating more than 100,000 jobs and generating around $80 billion over the next ten years.

The Air Line Pilots Association complained that the new regulations are “missing a key component” because there’s no requirement that drone operators first have an FAA pilot license to fly a plane. The FAA considered requiring drone operators to have manned aircraft pilot licenses, but relented when the drone industry complained that the time and expense involved in obtaining a license, including considerable time practicing flying a plane, would be prohibitive.

NASA is also weighing in on drone regulation.  It’s entering the second phase of a four-step plan to draw up rules of the road for small drones that fly under 500 feet.

By that time, it estimates there will be seven million small drones in operation, including 2.6 million aircraft for commercial use.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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