Today, the Federal Aviation Administration released its new book of drones rules. The summary is almost a thousand words long. The full 624 page rulebook is, at roughly 170,000 words, about as long as Joseph Heller's Catch 22. The rules are long in coming, and they have a depth that will take a while to properly explore. Here's what we know so far.
Is a paper airplane a drone? For the Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for regulating America's skies, this is no longer an idle question. The commercial use of drones is currently prohibited in the United States, unless an operator receives an exemption from the FAA that allows them to fly their drone.
The Federal Aviation Administration did something rather remarkable on Sunday: they proposed a new set of drone rules. For years, drone hobbyists and businesses have been left in limbo, flying in unregulated skies and wondering whether they were unintentionally breaking the law. In 2012, Congress mandated that the FAA offer new rules for small unmanned aircraft by 2015, and breaking with expectations, the FAA actually delivered.
Everyone from filmmakers to drug traffickers knows that drones are useful for innumerable tasks. Scientists have started using drones in ecological research, monitoring animals in places that are too remote or delicate to visit in person. Although Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines for drones are imminent, researchers don't yet have any guidelines for how to use drones around wildlife, and they don't understand much about the animals themselves can be affected. In a study published recently in the journal Biology Letters, a team of French researchers set out to test some of these questions in the only way they could: flying drones hundreds of times as close as possible to groups of birds. Luckily, they were much more meticulous about it than the hundreds of drone-happy teens who have surely done the same thing.
Every day, people find new places where they shouldn't fly drones. Earlier this week, it was the White House grounds. Before that, a meth-smuggling remote control copter crashed just south of San Diego. There are even maps of where not to fly drones. Now, in a new, short PSA, the Federal Aviation Administration very clearly says where not to fly: the Super Bowl
After four years of lobbying by the Motion Picture Association of America, the Federal Aviation Administration announced yesterday that movie producers can fly drones to shoot film. This is good news for commercial drone use in the United States, but it might be too little, too late. As the FAA stalls on defining drone regulations, leaving commercial UAVs grounded throughout the U.S., other countries are leading the world in civilian drone applications. Allowing them to fly in Hollywood through exemption shows just how far the FAA is from fully integrating drones into American skies.