Tuesday, December 23, 2014

FAA fears Santa will be delivering drone aircraft to inexperienced and/or irresponsible users

AP photo by John Locher
The Federal Aviation Administration is playing Scrooge this Christmas, as agency officials fear that one of the hot new presents under trees will be drones, aggravating already complicated issue of safety in the skies, Craig Whitlock reports for The Washington Post.

In anticipation of a large number of of drones being given as presents this year, the FAA and the drone industry on Monday "kicked off a public awareness campaign to urge novice drone operators to pay attention to safety and not do dumb things such as flying too close to passenger planes, buzzing crowds of bystanders on the ground or flying that new ­remote-control helicopter while drunk," Whitlock writes.

"The campaign is dubbed 'Know Before You Fly' and includes videos instructing people how to 'stay off the naughty list' when playing with their new gifts," Whitlock writes. "Among the basics: Don’t fly drones above 400 feet, within five miles of an airport or near a stadium." FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told reporters, “This is an issue of growing concern. This newer and more powerful technology is affordable to more people, yet many are not familiar with the rules of flying.”

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled last month that drones are aircraft and are subject to existing aviation laws. Until FAA rules are put in place, most commercial use of drones remains illegal.  Officials fear unregulated drones use could  lead to "a modern version of the Wild West." In June the National Park Service banned drones in all parks and areas it manages. In August a tourist crashed a drone into Yellowstone National Park. Also in August drones were banned over the Appalachian Trail and in parks in Utah and Colorado, and a drone was reported flying over an NFL game. The FAA has a Sept. 30, 2015 deadline to set rules for commercial use.

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