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Toys United States Build

That Toy Is Now a Drone 268

Posted by timothy
from the arbitrary-power dept.
fluxgate (2851685) writes "A notice from the FAA announced earlier this week just turned a bunch of kids' toys into drones. In the past, the FAA had made the distinction between model aircraft (allowed) and drones (prohibited without special permission) according to whether they were used for recreation (okay) or commercial purposes (verboten). Now they have further narrowed the definition of model aircraft: If you fly it through video goggles, it no longer qualifies. This move eliminates First Person View (FPV) radio control flying. I'm an editor at IEEE Spectrum with a special interest and blogged about this disturbing development as soon as I heard the news."
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That Toy Is Now a Drone

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  • by caseih (160668) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @10:55AM (#47340447)

    As an RC airplane enthusiast, who likes to dabble in FPV and UAVs, I must say that I'm not surprised. However my feelings are a mix of outrage at the FAA as well as understanding. When a few irresponsible people use their toys in ways that are, well irresponsible, I'm not at all surprised to see the FAA come down hard on everyone. I think in many ways this is a tragedy of the commons. A few idiots have actually ruined it for everyone. When a toy has the power to kill people, or to hurt them, and people do stupid things with them, then it ceases to be a toy. We are now seeing stories in the news almost weekly of stupid people flying their toys in reckless and dangerous ways.

    That said, I don't see how the FAA's rules are enforceable, nor do I see how the FAA can actually claim to have the authority to make rules in an an area that, as far as I can tell, congress has never granted them the power to do.

    If FAA truly has the power to regulate a hobby, then they need to have a framework in place to allow this activity to continue safely. It's happening everywhere in the world. Banning it in the US will only put companies behind the curve who want to develop and use the technology.

    • by bongey (974911)

      The FAA should delegate or allow delegating to the AMA. IE if you are flying at AMA field , the rule doesn't apply. Or that you must have insurance.

      • The American Medical Association? I should think not. If you did that, each drone would cost something north of 5 figures and could only be used by someone who went through a decades long training program while channeling hallucinations from some old dead Greek guy.

        Not a very good idea.

        • by C0L0PH0N (613595)
          Of course, it is the American Modeling Association, which has provided the hobby's only defense against overreach and destruction of the hobby of aeromodeling by the FAA. The AMA has been working with Congress and the FAA since the rule making process on unmanned aircraft began.
        • by bongey (974911)

          Wrong AMA, Academy of Model Aeronautics http://www.modelaircraft.org/ [modelaircraft.org] . Its in the article.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by russotto (537200)

          The American Medical Association? I should think not. If you did that, each drone would cost something north of 5 figures and could only be used by someone who went through a decades long training program while channeling hallucinations from some old dead Greek guy.

          Unfortunately, while it's the Academy of Model Aeronautics rather than the American Medical Association, this isn't far from the truth. The AMA isn't fond of FPV in the first place, it's just that they want to be the model aircraft police rather

          • If you want a dead Greek guy, I suppose the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) could channel Icarus.

      • by oursland (1898514) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @05:11PM (#47342101)
        The problem the FAA is currently faced with is that hobbyists aren't flying within a field, AMA or otherwise, but rather exceeding 400 ft, flying over populated areas and highways, and flying into controlled airspace. The only new restriction that the FAA is proposing is removing FPV flying from the domain of "model aircraft", which limits the pilots ability to perform these unsafe activities.

        Ars Technica just published an article demonstrating the activities that irresponsible people (the author) do with this technology: link [arstechnica.com]
    • and when a drone crashes into a plane the FAA will get all the power that they need and the pilot may be looking at some hard time and or a big lawsuit and if it's some commercial drone they better go all the way up the chain so they can't use the an network of subcontractors to get out of blame / have people who have no cash to pay out.

      • by oursland (1898514)
        In 2013, an Alitalia pilot identified a quad on the landing path to JFK International: link [uasvision.com]. There's already reason for concern.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog (752185)

      That said, I don't see how the FAA's rules are enforceable, nor do I see how the FAA can actually claim to have the authority to make rules in an an area that, as far as I can tell, congress has never granted them the power to do.

      Enforceability is one thing but a few high profile cases will take the wind out of many peoples rotors. As to whether or not the FAA can regulate UAVs - it's pretty clear that they have broad powers of regulation when it comes to aircraft safety. UAVs that potentially serve as hazards to aircraft in flight or around a runway would easily fall under FAA jurisdiction. Kids flying something in their back yard - that's the big issue. If you look at the one 'hobby' that UAVs most closely resemble, model roc

    • by oursland (1898514) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @03:05PM (#47341563)
      I doubt it is just "a few idiots". The access to these devices has increased to the point where many people can now gain access to them, particularly those who don't give much thought to their actions. Ars Technica got their hands on a DJI Phantom and IMMEDIATELY flew above 400 ft, over other people's property, over crowded areas, over highways, and in dangerous areas (near power lines, etc): link [arstechnica.com].
    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @04:03PM (#47341785)
      I seem to have had to keep repeating this endlessly on Slashdot, but a Federal NTSB judge [politico.com] has already ruled [bloomberg.com] that the FAA does not have lawful authority to regulate low-altitude models or drones, regardless of whether they are being used commercially.

      The FAA has appealed the decision, and so far seems hell-bent on regulating as much as it can before it gets slapped down in higher court. Which it surely will... Congress simply hasn't given them legal authority to regulate such things. They're acting like the EPA has been recently, seemingly trying to greedily grab up all the usurped authority they can before the November elections.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @10:57AM (#47340455)

    I'm sorry for those losing out here, but I also don't see why they should be allowed to operate unmanned aerial vehicles with surveillance capabilities any more than anyone else.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @11:13AM (#47340531) Journal

      I also don't see why they should be allowed to operate unmanned aerial vehicles with surveillance capabilities any more than anyone else.

      The default should be yes, you're allowed to do it as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. Going to a park or a field and flying a model airplane (or drone, however you want to call it) doesn't hurt anyone, so it should be allowed.

      One of the main arguments against centralized government authority is that it's too big to take into account the concerns of everyone, so small constituencies get trampled. That is the case here, people who were not hurting anyone are now prevented from a healthy hobby, and have very little recourse.

      • I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you -- in fact, I suspect from your choice of phrase that we would very much agree on the basic principles of how laws should work -- I'm just saying the law should apply equally to everyone. If certain areas are acceptable for this kind of hobby, they should be acceptable for other similar "drone" flights. Equally, if for whatever reason certain areas are not acceptable in law for general "drone" flights or if the default in law is that these devices aren't considered a

        • It would have been easy for the FCC to make regulations that allowed hobbyists to use toys, by defining the parameters to allow such uses. One first attempt would be something like, "these types of toys can be used when in view of the user"

          In this case, it appears that they merely weren't aware of all the ramifications of what they were doing. So it's a mistake that hurts people.
          • by oursland (1898514)
            The FAA DID make that very recommendation. The clarification here is that they are not permitting FPV flight, and are restricting "view of the user" to their natural vision (corrected, if necessary). FPV is the new tech advancement that irresponsible pilots are using to fly in an unsafe manner.
      • by oursland (1898514)
        The FAA agrees with you and you still retain the ability to fly the craft as a hobbyist, but you must do so below 400 ft and within line of sight (not using FPV). You must not operate the craft for money, nor as a part of a business.

        The problem is that when people take their quad out to a park and fly it using FPV, they often go above 400 ft, fly over other people's property, fly over crowded areas, fly over highways, and fly in dangerous areas (near power lines, etc). This isn't a "few bad apples" eith
    • I don't feel too bad for enthusiasts as this limitation won't stop them.
      It's the same as some semiautomatics or limited cartridge guns -- you can modify them.

      If the definition of DRONE is flies by video -- then they aren't sold with video and someone buys a radio camera and attaches that. Suddenly it's a remote viewer.

      I suspect more fear of drones from the Government as the capabilities of CITIZENS doing what they do 24/7 becomes apparent. Is the worry about someone ELSE spying besides corporations and gove

  • by retroworks (652802) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @10:57AM (#47340459) Homepage Journal
    The article and comments miss the point. http://washington.cbslocal.com... [cbslocal.com] They are trying to regulate the use of the drones for peeping in neighbors yards and windows. They are trying to regulate it in a way without banning them, the over-reaction which will probably occur the first time a nude child shows up on youtube from an evil neighbor's google glasses. The CBS article - and most articles via news.google.com - point out that you can buy these pocket yard drones on amazon and are more nuanced about the policy debate than the /. "government is gonna take your toys away" article.
    • by bongey (974911) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @11:55AM (#47340755)

      No the AMA(Academy of Model Aeronautics) is also going against the rule. Another case of a slashdot reader who didn't actually read the article.
      "The FAA interpretive rule effectively negates Congress' intentions, and is contrary to the law. Section 336(a) of the Public Law states that, 'the Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft', this interpretive rule specifically addresses model aircraft, effectively establishes rules that model aircraft were not previously subject to and is in direct violation of the congressional mandate in the 2012 FAA reauthorization bill."

        "AMA cannot support this rule." said AMA Executive Director Dave Mathewson. "It is at best ill-conceived and at worst intentionally punitive and retaliatory. The Academy strongly requests the FAA reconsider this action. The AMA will pursue all available recourse to dissuade enactment of this rule."

  • Now they have further narrowed the definition of model aircraft: If you fly it through video goggles, it no longer qualifies.

    "Stop flying it more safely! You may only fly it the more dangerous old way!"

    • by nukenerd (172703)
      I think the point is to limit the range over which it can be operated. It also makes it easier to identify the operator if they start to fly it dangerously or intrusively. Of course, someone could fly the drone blindly out of the line-of sight range anyway, but there would be little point to doing so, and the thing would probably be lost too.
  • Not anything new (Score:5, Informative)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @11:25AM (#47340611)

    The FAA has always had this rule.

    To be a flying a 'model' you have to fly by line of sight, i.e. with your eyes on the model, not via electronics. Its been this way for years.

    • Mod parent up. Submitter clearly didn't do any research before going Full Chicken Little.
    • FAA used to ask you to have a backup pilot on a trainer lead maintaining line of sight.

      Now it's just banned.

    • by xdor (1218206)

      My understanding is operating my drone outside of public airspace (no higher than 500 ft above obstacles) while on private property where the land owner has given me permission: the FAA has no jurisdiction

      Whether I have line-of-sight, radio control, or out-of-sight completely computer autonomous: in private airspace the FAA has no say.

  • Line of sight between the operator and the model - has always been a legal requirement of operating R/C aircraft.
    • by xdor (1218206)
      If I operate my computer-controlled drone no higher than 500 ft above obstacles on private property the FAA has no jurisdiction.
  • You know that is what they want, might as well just do it now and get over with.

  • by Toad-san (64810) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @02:14PM (#47341353)

    And there's no putting it back. I'm waiting for the first homemade (well, hobbyist or toy) drone attack. Won't be long. And I'm betting it'll be homegrown, no foreign terrorists required. FAA can regulate all it wants, but those drones are not going away.

  • by xdor (1218206)

    So since I'm not a government agency, this still leaves me class G airspace on private property (assuming I have permission from the land owner).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]

  • by naughtynaughty (1154069) on Saturday June 28, 2014 @07:04PM (#47342521)
    While there have been a few comments claiming otherwise, the simple fact is that not all airspace in the US can be regulated by the FAA. The US Supreme Court ruled in US v Causby in 1946 ""We have said that the airspace is a public highway. Yet it is obvious that if the landowner is to have full enjoyment of the land, he must have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere. Otherwise buildings could not be erected, trees could not be planted, and even fences could not be run. The principle is recognized when the law gives a remedy in case overhanging structures are erected on adjoining land.[9] The landowner owns at least as much of the space above the ground as he can occupy or use in connection with the land. See Hinman v. Pacific Air Transport, 84 F.2d 755. The fact that he does not occupy it in a physical sense — by the erection of buildings and the like — is not material." The FAA has jurisdiction of the navigable airways, it does not have jurisdiction over YOUR use of the airspace immediately above your backyard and they cannot regulate the use of drones of model aircraft outside the navigable airspace any more than they can require you to get a permit to plant a tree in your backyard. Now the FAA won't admit it and likes to pretend that they have control of the air around your head, but it is clear from US v Causby that "must have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere".

Nobody said computers were going to be polite.

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