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An Insightful Look at Drone Legalities in the US

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by kevinm, Jun 7, 2016.

  1. kevinm

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    An extremely in-depth and (mostly) objective article about drone laws in the US. It's a long one so I'll log the main points here if anyone wants a summary.

    Full-length article here: Is Flying a Drone Illegal? A Comprehensive Guide to America’s Drone Laws
    • "Few (areas of government law) are so intentionally misleading, arbitrarily enforced, or regularly misreported by the press" as much as FAA law
    • Is flying a drone illegal? There's no straight answer for that right now.
    • The FAA is not a reliable narrator. Just because they say something is true does not make it true. They issue "advisory circulars" and "policy statements" as part of a legitimate legal argument - this is a dirty scare tactic.
    • The question of whether or not a drone is an "aircraft" is still unanswered. The infamous Raphael Pirker case touched the surface of this, but there has been no concrete follow-up in the aftermath of the case. The FAA has attempted to fine 24 pilots and every time has cited a manned aircraft regulation in all cases even though drones cannot legally be proven to be aircraft.
    • Manned aircraft regulations are inherently at odds with drones. "Wreckless" flight for manned aircraft can be defined as flying below 500 ft. All drones are supposed to be flown under 400 ft. You can see how this poses a problem.
    • There should be laws to prevent idiocy like the White House incident. However, retroactively fitting manned aircraft regulations gives the FAA too much freedom to abuse these regulations with respect to drones.
    • The FAA is disorganized and largely decentralized. Some regional safety offices are lax about drones and some are strict - it just depends on who's working there. Almost every drone fine ever has been issued out of the Eastern region office (24 total fines)
    • He describes the 333 exemption process as "a get-rich-quick scheme for shady law firms everywhere." The FAA does not have any regulations that prohibit commercial drone operations. This is why the FAA has not fined a single drone company operating without a 333. By getting a 333, you are actually subjecting yourself to enforceable rules you wouldn't otherwise have to.
    • The hobby registration program the FAA implemented last year is currently going through a lawsuit because it goes against the FAA Modernization Act of 2012.
    • State and local governments have no authority over airspace - period.

    I have not fact-checked everything here but Brendan Schulman seemed to give his thumbs-up approval. There's a decent amount of stuff in the article that I didn't know before reading, particularly that the FAA does not have any regulations that prohibit commercial drone operations. Does anyone dispute any of the things that the writer included in the article?
     
  2. Fat Daddy

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    Best article I've seen about UAV regulations yet!
     
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  3. Fat Daddy

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    Thanks for posting it.
     
  4. kevinm

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    Agreed! I think it's an absolute must-read for anyone who's interested in learning more drone regulations. Very clearly written and informative without being overly technical.
     
  5. snerd

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    I just watched a show on The Weather Channel............... "Tornado - Target Oklahoma". They showed a short clip about the research being done at the University of Oklahoma and the NOAA, including using drones and miniature rocket planes to get near these massive storms to gain data to better predict tornadoes. But the underlying emphasis was on the illegality of using them! It is just so ridiculous, the laws prohibiting the use of new technology to better understand the world around us. Something needs to be done soon, and by Congress. Time to reign in the rogue FAA.
     
  6. kevinm

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    The FAA swore to Congress multiple times that Part 107 would be released this month. While I've heard from multiple sources that this "will happen" I'm not holding my breath. Guess we have 3 weeks from now to see if it happens.

    The silver lining is that we're so early-on in drone technology. I'm confident that decades from now all these legality issues will be viewed as a relatively minor roadblock that didn't block the usefulness of the technology too much. Well, at least hopefully that'll be the case.
     
  7. jonesg11

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    I was going to post the same article. I'm not an expert on FAA law but I do think this sums up the current situation properly and gives some clarification to some very muddy waters.
     
  8. jerrys54

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    While not blocking the usefulness of Drones going forward, the current legal circus WILL ensure $$$ lines the correct (as in not yours or mine) pockets...
     
  9. N017RW

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    Your last sentence is inconsistent with the chain of events.
    NAS 'rules' were in place before Drones became more than research items.

    The FAA, while like any government agency may be slow to respond, is not rogue and is trying to integrate them safely into the NAS.

    The bias and lack of objectivity on the part of many new-comers has fomented this inaccurate label and many just parrot such points of view out of ignorance seemingly to 'go along to get along'.
     
  10. tcope

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    I think he does have a point. It's a simple fact that the FAA has lied about drone use. They told the media that there were 650 drone sightings in 2015. They then were slow to release the data. The data showed that their statement was incorrect. They also have put out fliers showing swarms of drones around planes. They have also stated that they can regulate commercial drone use (debatable). They were to have drone regulations in place last year and they still have not done this. The only thing they have done is create a registration system and created a crazy exemption to commercial use. Their inability to do their required job has also allowed for other agencies to make illegal laws against drones.

    Is the FAA part of the problem? Without a doubt.
     
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  11. Hickeroar

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    As a pretty new drone flyer, I'm pretty torn on this issue.

    On one hand, I definitely feel that the FAA is overstepping with many of their restrictions and draconian rules that make flying nearly impossible in some areas. They also intentionally misrepresent information to hobbyists (such as their nb4uf app telling me there are 4 airports I have to notify if I want to fly near my home....while 2 of them have been shut down for over a decade and another has been shut down for a couple years. The 4th local airport owner said (and I quote) "I don't give a **** if you fly your drone" while chuckling about it, and told me to have fun flying.)

    On the other hand, there need to be some sort of rules in place to help prevent idiots from crashing drones into airliners.

    Not sure what the right answer is.
     
  12. kevinm

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    I agree. There are definitely many who bash the FAA without knowing the whole situation/being open to admitting how difficult of a situation they're in. The FAA has a VERY tough job especially since the general public doesn't even have an idea what a drone is. If they are too lax with drones and it causes an airliner accident (albeit the chances of that are pretty slim)? They'd be incredibly f*****. They're erring on the side of caution as they should.

    On the other hand, as @Hickeroar pointed out, what I don't like is that the FAA isn't transparent/clear about what we can or can't do. That's the most frustrating part (and it seemed the biggest takeaway of the article)- it's not that the rules are necessarily bad, it's that no one knows what the rules are even for those who want to follow them.
     
  13. tcope

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    How long would you have a job if your boss gave you a deadline of a year to get something done and you took an extra year to complete it? It might be a "tough" job (it's not) bit it is their job and we pay them a lot to do it. How long did it take for them to set up the registration? Their an ability to create registration has caused a majority of the problems we see today.
     
  14. kevinm

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    I agree that the FAA hasn't been doing their job properly and my aim isn't to defend them by saying they have been. But, to say that integrating drones into the NAS isn't a tough job just isn't true. At least IMO.
     
  15. AJAX-14

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    I concur, it isn't an easy task. So many times we read the FAA bashing episodes here without consideration for the magnitude of the task. Really, the FAA has nothing better to do? They should just drop all the really important stuff they do to develop policy and regulation for hobbyist or "quad-enthusiasts"? We've literally tossed a million (possibly more) light weight flying objects into the NAS flown by individuals who fly, in many cases, without consideration for the safety of anyone, including the tens of thousands of passenger carrying aircraft in the NAS. It's not easy and there is no simple solution. For now, follow the current FAA guidance of <400'AGL, keep it in sight and don't fly over populated places.
     
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