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Revised FAA rules allow US companies to fly drones without a pilot's license

By Shawn Knight
Jun 21, 2016
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  1. The Federal Aviation Administration has unveiled a new set of rules that dictate the use of drones by commercial operators. “Part 107” doesn’t bring us any closer to drone deliveries but it is an important step forward for those that use drones commercially for other purposes.

    Up to this point, any for-profit entity – think farmer, photographer or real estate agent – interested in flying a drone as part of their job was required to have a pilot’s license. As The Verge highlights, the new regulatory framework replaces this requirement with a knowledge test and certificate that’s specific to flying a drone rather than an airplane. What's more, an operator can even fly a drone without a certificate so long as they are supervised by someone that has been certified. In theory, this could allow one supervisor to manage a whole fleet of unlicensed drone operators at once.

    DJI spokesperson Adam Lisberg said the development means businesses, farmers, government agencies and academic researchers can put drones to work without having to get a pilot’s license or follow other onerous rules.

    Lisberg described Part 107 as a vote of confidence from the FAA that drones can be safely integrated into the national airspace and that a wider adoption of drones for all sorts of non-recreational uses will bring real benefits to America.

    As forward-looking as Part 107 is, it doesn’t do anything to further the agenda of companies like Amazon, Walmart and UPS that would love nothing more than to deploy autonomous drones for package delivery purposes. Current law dictates that operators must maintain line-of-sight with their drone at all times and the fact that each operator can only control one drone at a time rules out the possibility of autonomous use.

    Image courtesy akiyoko, Shutterstock

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  2. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,684   +791

    What's more, an operator can even fly a drone without a certificate so long as they are supervised by someone that has been certified. In theory, this could allow one supervisor to manage a whole fleet of unlicensed drone operators at once.

    That certainly leaves the door open for abuse at many different levels. The legal community is certainly going to have to address the expectation of privacy for the individual home owner or allow the home owner to take matters into their own hands to protect themselves and their children from potential sexual predators or blackmailers that invade that envelope of personal privacy.
     
  3. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 1,324   +711

    If its over your property and below 200 feet you can shoot it down in most states since (a) its trespassing, not occupied and/or unattended, (b) not a licensed aircraft and (c) represents a potential safety hazard to your life and property. I recommend a good 20 gauge, full choke with bird shot loads..and naturally, be very aware of your surroundings. The drone and your pellets will have to come down nearby, so you don't want people getting hit in the eye with raining debris. Safety goggles should be kept close at hand. Alternately you can get a drone of your own and simply crash it into the offending intruder..there's no law against this anywhere in the US. If enough of us turn the tables on annoying perverts and thieves (since drones are increasingly being used for "casing" robbery targets) the authorities will soon get the message. Oh, and if you recover the trespassing drone you can Ebay it as a bonus :)
     
    Raoul Duke likes this.
  4. veLa

    veLa TS Evangelist Posts: 708   +168

    No you can't. Don't even pretend that you understand the legality behind it.
     
    Reehahs likes this.
  5. JamesPaulWhite

    JamesPaulWhite TS Rookie

    I'm not a lawyer either but it actually seems that you can shoot down a drone without being convicted, at least in Kentucky.

    http://www.cnet.com/news/judge-rules-man-had-right-to-shoot-down-drone-over-his-house/

    The judge accepted the testimony of two eyewitnesses as more compelling than the drone's data log wrt how high the drone was flying. I don't know whether the drone owner produced evidence of the altimeter's degree of accuracy.

    Anyhow turns out there is plenty of law about the fact trespass can occur in the air above a property with altitudes in the 20 to 30 foot range being pretty well established (thanks to cases involving utility wires and such). There is some gray area until you get up to "navigable airspace" where the FAA reigns supreme, but unfortunately that is somewhere around 500 feet or so and drones are not allowed to fly that high.

    http://www.stroudlaw.com/hey-thats-my-air-trespass-by-delivery-drone/
     
  6. ForgottenLegion

    ForgottenLegion TS Enthusiast Posts: 58   +27

    "The judge accepted the testimony of two eyewitnesses as more compelling than the drone's data log wrt how high the drone was flying."

    That says it all right there.
    Hard evidence clearly doesn't belong in a court of law.
    Id love to see what these people do once these things become ubiquitous. Will they suddenly stop being offended by their presence?
     
  7. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 1,954   +162

    People have been flying toy planes\helicopters since the 80s, maybe even earlier. We even shot off rockets without a license, oh dear!

    The only reason anyone cares about drones is simple. Obama used unmanned aircraft "drones" to kill terrorists. So Fox news hates drones. Which are actually aircraft and looking nothing like toy drones. Shortly after our cool toy drones came out. Fox news saw the word drones, they knew it was recently associated with Obama. So they created a fear campaign about drones. Are drones watching you? Can drones take down aircraft? Are people putting bombs on drones? Do you have the right to shoot down a drone?!
     
  8. veLa

    veLa TS Evangelist Posts: 708   +168

    According to the FAA, shooting down a drone is a federal crime no different from shooting down any other aircraft.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/johngog...crime-so-when-will-us-prosecute/#35f83f1453ef

    The Kentucky case you highlighted, if appealed, would most likely have a differing outcome. Trial courts often get rulings wrong, and appeals courts rectify such issues.

    Additionally it's important to realize that in this case, the charges were dismissed. This is not a not guilty verdict. This does not set legal precedent the way a not guilty verdict does.

    I'd also like to point out that this particular Kentucky case is not resolved. It is currently in federal court. I believe the case you highlighted was a lower tier state court.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2016
  9. Raoul Duke

    Raoul Duke TS Guru Posts: 930   +354

    Personally I have never made this connection until you have mentioned it. I might choose getting waterboarded over being forced to watch Fox news though....seriously though, model rockets were a blast! The stuff we used to be able to buy and use before Big Brother stepped in for our safety, boggles the mind.
     

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