FAA and drone restrictions

Tuesday, November 29, 2011
In my posts about drones, outside of the Chinese loon trying to build a manned octocopter, I've been posting about recreational drones. Recreational drones have a limited payload size, range and altitude they can fly at.

The FAA has so far restricted larger drones from flying in the U.S., but the FAA is considering loosening those restriction. Commentorama, in their post It's A Bird. It's A Plane. It's A Drone! discusses the moves that the FAA is considering, and then raises the question as to whether these new looser regulations could lead towards a new avenue for terror attacks.

Below is the start of the article, be sure to read it in its entirety.
The FAA is considering new rules which would allow civilian use of drones. Presently, use of drones is restricted to military activities, and even at that are somewhat limited within the borders of the United States. Now these won't be the kind of drones we picture dropping bunker-busters in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will be much, much smaller versions, most incapable of handling the weight of a serious bomb.

Initial use of drones would be restricted to law enforcement agencies, utility companies and farmers. The police want them for surveillance and tracking of escaped criminals. The utilities want them for patrolling power lines and water, oil and gas pipelines. Farmers see them as a far more efficient way to spray their crops than helicopters and small aircraft. I have visions of a scene out of The Fifth Element, with flying objects flitting about like cars on a stacked freeway. But I'm known for a fevered imagination.

Currently the FAA has issued 266 active testing permits for civilian drone use. The drones are not allowed in busy air corridors yet out of concern for lack of adequate "detect, sense and avoid" technology. But that is in the potential plan as well. Naturally, there are many other concerns which will need to be addressed before final implementation. The potential for criminal use is obvious. UCLA professor and fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Technolgy Innovation says: "By definition, small drones are easy to conceal and fly without getting a lot of attention. Bad guys know this."

Still, the appropriate good guys seem to outweigh the bad guys. The leader in this potential boom business is AeroVironment, located in Monrovia, California. They are already the major provider of small drones for the military. They estimate that police agencies alone give them a potential new customer base of nearly 18,000. Above my old stomping-grounds in the mountains around Simi Valley, they have also been testing helicopter-style drones called Qube that fly 100 to 200 feet above the ground, matching height to terrain.

Read the rest of It's A Bird. It's A Plane. It's A Drone!
  

0 comments: