DRONE TROUBLE

FAA INVESTIGATES VIRAL FIREWORKS DRONE FLIGHTS

The Tech Explosion has brought us a number of recent viral videos showing fireworks being shot by aerial drones. These viral videos have caught the attention of the FAA and possibly other agencies as well. Some of the videos were posted last week for July 4th, however, it seems that at least one of them was shot during Memorial Day celebrations this past May.

Video Courtesy: Jos Stiglingh

These videos have caused quite a stir. For one thing, they certainly are beautiful. They were instantly shared by thousands of viewers who passed around their links in the spirit of July 4th. However, once the gratification of viewing these videos subsided, many people began to ask questions about the potential lack of safety involved in doing something like this. Fireworks shows are obviously attended by crowds of people, and many began to wonder what could have happened if the drone was knocked out of the sky and crashed onto the head of a spectator at the event.

So, the initial positive reaction to the visuals recorded by the drone went viral, but then lead to a viral backlash against the practice and opened up a very heated online debate among people for and against doing this. A 4-minute video posted by Jos Stiglingh reached over 9 million views very quickly. In this case, the video was published back in May, but went very much viral for the 4th of July.

Fireworks Shot By Drone Cameras

Fireworks Shot By Drone Cameras

So the Tech Explosion brings us this: (a.) explosions in the sky recorded by the technology of drones (owned by everyday people!),  (b.) the technology of the GoPro camera which never ceases to amaze!,  (c.) the technology of having these beautiful videos go viral and be seen by an audience over nine million people,  (d.) the technology of social media and its online debate over this potentially dangerous practice.

FAA Logo

The FAA is Investigating

On June 23, 2014 the FAA put forth a notice to providing guidance to model aircraft / UAS operators (Unmanned Aircraft Systems or “drones”).  The guidelines gave the FAA’s views on the “do’s and don’ts” of flying safely in accordance with the 2012 FAA Reform and Modernization Act.  The notice states the FAA’s interpretation of the law’s requirements, including the definition of  a “model aircraft”. It also details requirements that these model aircraft not interfere with manned aircraft, that they be flown within sight of the operator and that they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. The FAA goes on to explain that model aircraft operators flying within five miles of an airport must notify the airport operator and the air traffic control tower.

The FAA's Official Notice

The FAA’s Official Notice

According to the FAA, “A flight that is not for hobby or recreation requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and operating approval.”  This requirement has been met with a lot of criticism.  The fact is, with the technology available, many people are using drones for commercial uses without any certification. TV shows are using drones instead of paying thousands of dollars for an actual helicopter. Real estate agents are hiring “semi-pro” drone operators in order to shoot sweeping overhead views of estates. Farmers are using drones to survey their crops.

The fact is, there have only been two uses that have met the FAA’s restrictive commercial use criteria. Other than that, people are just going out and using these super-cheap drones for all kinds of reasons. The skies have now become an aerial version of the wild west, with drones being flown by anyone willing to plunk down some cash for them… and it’s not a lot of cash.

USA Today FireworksJPG

USA Today Reports on the Drones

Seriously, if you were told ten years ago that in 2014, an average person could buy and launch an aerial drone capable of shooting HD video for under $2,000.00, you’d think it was impossible. And if you were told then that the video shot with that drone would quickly be seen by over nine million people, which is what popular TV shows seek in viewership numbers, again, you’d say “No way!” But this is the nature of the Tech Explosion. Entire industries, practices and behaviors are constantly being turned upside down each and every day.

In this case, the government can’t possibly keep up with the rapid advancements in technology. The average person can afford this technology, quickly becoming an “expert” and offering his or her services to others. Amazon and other companies are looking to deliver products using drones. There are even stories about individuals and “Private Eyes” using drones to spy on each other.

It’s going to be a long and bumpy road sorting out all of these issues. The bottom line is that the technology “Pandora’s Box” of affordable drones has been opened. It remains to be seen how we all deal with this.

Happy Flying!

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