08 November 2015 - A Drone is not a Toy

It is a relatively new industry, the manufacture and sale of UAV’s, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, that most of us simply call drones. So let me repeat something you have heard me say before on Samuelson Sez.
A DRONE IS NOT A TOY! I bring this up now because the UAV industry is predicting a strong holiday sales season, with many people finding a gift-wrapped drone under the Christmas tree. That would also be indicated by the number of novelty Christmas catalogs I am receiving in the mail that feature low-priced drones equipped with cameras.

In addition to cameras for aerial photography, drones can be equipped with very sophisticated equipment to perform specific work for agriculture, industry, real estate surveys and environmental projects; work that cannot be done from ground level. That means a camera drone is not to be used to spy on neighbors, not intended to fly over swimming pools to look at bikini-clad ladies and not to look through windows in high-rise apartment buildings. These are all complaints that have been filed with police across the country. My concern is if these complaints continue, the government could take action to ban the use of drones by private citizens.

There are some FAA rules in place, but the industry has grown faster than the FAA rule-making process and they will be implementing additional regulations by the end of the year. But already, rules have been broken by drones flying in busy air space and flying higher than the existing altitude restrictions. Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a $1.9 million fine against a drone company that operated 65 unauthorized flights in busy air space in Chicago and New York City.

Why should this concern you if you are involved in farming or ranching? Because this has already proven to be a useful tool for producers. Drones equipped with infra-red sensors and cameras give you a look from the air to see if you have disease, insect or drought problems; much better than our current “windshield surveys” from the edge of a field. Drones can also be used by ranchers to find lost cattle and do it much quicker and easier than a cowboy on a horse.

And it does go beyond agriculture. Last week, Walmart applied to the FAA to begin test flights by drones for pickup and delivery, joining Amazon which earlier applied to fly test flights to see if drones could be used to deliver packages to homes.

Yes, the drone is a tool, it is not a toy, especially for kids! If you receive a drone as a Christmas gift, I have some suggestions. First, read all of the FAA rules first and follow them. Then read the instructions to assemble and fly your UAV safely and follow them. To do otherwise is dangerous, plus to do otherwise could cause the FAA to make the regulations so cumbersome that it would take away a valuable tool for agriculture and industry.

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