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United States

The FAA Has Missed Its Congressionally Mandated Deadline To Regulate Drones 184

derekmead writes: When Congress passed the FAA Modernization Act in 2012, it gave the agency until September 30, 2015 to fully regulate commercial drones for use in the United States. Well, it's October 1, and we're left with a patchwork of regulatory band-aids, quasi-legal "guidelines," and a small drone rule that still hasn't gone into effect yet. This news shouldn't surprise anyone. The agency has missed most every milestone—both internal and lawmaker mandated—that has been set for it. The last two years have been fraught with lawsuits, confusion on enforcement within its own local offices (some FAA agents have told pilots they can't post videos on YouTube, for example), and various conflicting guidelines as to who can fly a drone where, and for what purposes.
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The FAA Has Missed Its Congressionally Mandated Deadline To Regulate Drones

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  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday October 02, 2015 @12:57AM (#50642077) Journal
    If there is no congressionally mandated penalty, it's not really a law.
    • ..and some entity actually willing and able to enforce the penalty...

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Friday October 02, 2015 @01:22AM (#50642139)

      Tie some of their funding to the completion of their legal mandates, and they will become fearsome regulation-writing warriors. You just have to understand Bureaushido - the Way of the Bureaucrat.

      • I wonder if we can do that for ALL of congress and the government. Don't do the job you are mandated? You don't get paid.

        I wonder if they will remember that in December when they threaten to shut down the gov't again because they can't agree on a debt ceiling resolution.

        --
      • FAA is one of those organizations that really needs to be funded 100% all the time
      • They just need to wait until planes start crashing then get thier funding back ...

    • by schwit1 ( 797399 )
      The penalty should have been that Congress took the drone regulatory authority away from the FAA and gave it to themselves or a separate entity.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The majority of drone operators are not pilots. They're not trained in see-and-avoid procedures. Many are very ignorant of FAA rules. That is why many drones are flown for commercial purposes, above 400 feet (the limit for recreational use), and close to airports. They're not trained on what to do if a mechanical part fails on a drone and it has to be landed in an emergency. There are good reasons why there are prohibitions on flying drones close to people and structures, yet these are frequently neglected.

    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday October 02, 2015 @01:45AM (#50642217)
      I think that we're going to need a definition here... What exactly is a COA?

      There are already classes of manned aircraft that do not require the operator to have a pilot's license to operate. There are rules and the operators are required to follow those rules, but without a licensing requirement I expect that enforcement could be challenging sometimes.

      If it's any consolation I agree that RC aircraft need reasonable restrictions. Operators need to not fly over property that they have not sought and received explicit permission to fly over. Operators need to not fly in heavily populated areas. Classes of RC aircraft need to be created so that there are sane rules governing relatively safe child toys as compared to larger amateur rigs and even bigger and more powerful professional rigs.
      • I think that we're going to need a definition here... What exactly is a COA?

        Already defined. [faa.gov] And here. [knowbeforeyoufly.org]

        There are already classes of manned aircraft that do not require the operator to have a pilot's license to operate.

        There are. So?

        There are rules and the operators are required to follow those rules, but without a licensing requirement I expect that enforcement could be challenging sometimes.

        You must be kidding. You don't think the FAA would take any action against an ultralight pilot who violated the rules just because no formal license is involved?

        Operators need to not fly over property that they have not sought and received explicit permission to fly over.

        That would not be first on my list of rules that need to be created. As you point out, there are other pilots already operating, and none of them need permission to fly over property they don't own. That's part of the national airspace concept -- to prevent a patchwork of local regulations and limitations

      • If it's any consolation I agree that RC aircraft need reasonable restrictions. Operators need to not fly over property that they have not sought and received explicit permission to fly over.

        When are we going to apply the same standards to other aircraft? Why only drones? Nobody should be able to fly an airplane over my property without my written permission!

        • That makes sense! Let's create that rule.

          Oh. It already exists as 14 CFR 91.119c [cornell.edu]: "[in sparsely populated areas] the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure."

          Some other kinds of aircraft other than airplanes can fly lower and closer in certain situations (maybe even drones?), but here's the dirty little secret: the FAA figures out if they want to punish you, and then they figure out how to do it, and then they succeed. It's a privilege, not a right, so

          • Oh. It already exists as 14 CFR 91.119c: "[in sparsely populated areas] the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure."

            Right, but we can't have drones flying over 500' because that's where the aircraft are flying. We don't let aircraft fly at less than 500' because of the danger of crashing into something, not because of privacy considerations. Let the drones have the area between 250' and 500'. If there are privacy considerations, they apply to planes, only even moreso because planes are bigger and you can mount more advanced optics on them.

            There's no such thing as a loophole when it comes to the FARs. If you think you've found one,

            No, I just think I've found the folly in trying to apply the same logic to drones a

            • Right, but we can't have drones flying over 500' because that's where the aircraft are flying. We don't let aircraft fly at less than 500' because of the danger of crashing into something, not because of privacy considerations. Let the drones have the area between 250' and 500'. If there are privacy considerations, they apply to planes, only even moreso because planes are bigger and you can mount more advanced optics on them.

              As I mentioned a few postings above, there are aircraft (helicopters) that work below 500'. And even airplanes are allowed to operate below 500' when landing or taking off (for instance, from your backyard). Merely setting an altitude limit for drones won't prevent all collisions. I think we need a more complete solution (and as an engineer I tend to think of technology based ones like including drones in the ADS-B system).

              • by Morgon ( 27979 )

                > And even airplanes are allowed to operate below 500' when landing or taking off

                But when does that happen? Most people already know not to fly near airfields. I highly doubt anyone noticing that you're trying to take off or land in your backyard (is that a thing? Is that just for ultralights or something?) is going to hang around in a position that gets in your way.

                Merely setting ANYTHING won't prevent all collisions, drone or not. There needs to be a compromise, without over-reaching regulation or trac

                • And even airplanes are allowed to operate below 500' when landing or taking off

                  But when does that happen?

                  At least twice each flight for every flight of every aircraft.

                  I highly doubt anyone noticing that you're trying to take off or land in your backyard (is that a thing? Is that just for ultralights or something?)

                  No. It is for "aircraft".

                  is going to hang around in a position that gets in your way.

                  The fact remains, an aircraft that lands or takes off out of your neighbor's property is very unlikely to have reached 500' AGL by the time it crosses the property line, and therefore there are times when even manned, powered aircraft can fly below 500' over someone's property without their permission LEGALLY.

                  What we actually need is less blind fear.

                  You got that right.

                  • by Morgon ( 27979 )

                    And even airplanes are allowed to operate below 500' when landing or taking off

                    But when does that happen?

                    At least twice each flight for every flight of every aircraft.

                    Well yes, but I meant in context of his question, which said something about a backyard (I should have been more clear). I realize they do so at airports, but no reasonable quad pilot is operating there, making it a pointless argument.

                    The fact remains, an aircraft that lands or takes off out of your neighbor's property is very unlikely to have reached 500' AGL by the time it crosses the property line, and therefore there are times when even manned, powered aircraft can fly below 500' over someone's property without their permission LEGALLY.

                    Of course. I'm not the one arguing [slashdot.org] that property lines (or "my rights") are being violated by the existence of quads or aircraft. :)

      • Operators need to not fly over property that they have not sought and received explicit permission to fly over. Operators need to not fly in heavily populated areas.

        Why don't we apply the same rules to private airplanes?

    • Get a grip. We are talking about toy quadcopters, not military-grade autonomous vehicles. A certificate of airworthiness for a six-inch quadcopter? A license to fly an RC toy? I'm sure you're also an advocate for licenses for kite "pilots" too.

      Yeah, I can imagine your next argument too. "I mean the six-foot hexapod copters carrying three cameras and FPV downlinks." Your problem there is using the nebulous and incorrect term DRONE to lump everything together. If you have a problem with six-foot profe
      • A certificate of airworthiness for a six-inch quadcopter?

        A Certificate of Authorization for an unmanned aircraft used for commercial purposes. Is your six-inch quad going to be used for commercial purposes?

        Yeah, I can imagine your next argument too. "I mean the six-foot hexapod copters carrying three cameras and FPV downlinks."

        Well, yeah, I think that size of drone is going to be used for commercial purposes more often than the six-inch quad. Don't you think so, too?

        If you really want to discuss COA and licenses, then be specific about what class of air vehicles you are talking about.

        I think it is sufficient to talk about the commercial vs. non-commercial use, and that will have a practical effect of differentiating tiny toys from work-capable equipment.

        But a 12-inch, two pound toy with a pin-hole camera making videos for Facebook and YouTube worries me about as much as a badly thrown Frisbee.

        By the time you get to that size, you do have

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )

          A Certificate of Authorization for an unmanned aircraft used for commercial purposes. Is your six-inch quad going to be used for commercial purposes?

          For Many people, the answer is ABSOLUTELY YES, by the FAA's definition of commercial which includes the publication of video or photography on Youtube, and the advancement of any public or political benefit (Such as use by a non-profit for search and rescue work --- considered commercial use), or if there happens to later be any revenue from photography

        • A Certificate of Authorization for an unmanned aircraft used for commercial purposes. Is your six-inch quad going to be used for commercial purposes?

          What is it that causes people to froth at the mouth when something is uses for commercial purposes? Using something for commercial purposes doesn't make it dangerous. There should be one standard which is applied to all activity, commercial or not, and that standard should be based not on the type of activity but on the potential for harm.

          • by dave420 ( 699308 )
            I know what you mean, but I think you might have overlooked something: It's kind of like sex. For free it's one thing, to use it as part of your business model is clearly something else entirely.
            • I know what you mean, but I think you might have overlooked something: It's kind of like sex. For free it's one thing, to use it as part of your business model is clearly something else entirely.

              Why? If I send I a small plastic quad-copter up to 25 feet to check my gutters for debris after a storm, and there's a guy next door doing exactly the same thing in exactly the same way for exactly the same three minutes using exactly the same equipment with exactly the same skill and exactly the same safety considerations ... but he's charging $20 to do it so he doesn't have to charge $50 to put up a ladder in five places around the house ... how is that Clearly Something Else Entirely?

              And why is my ow

              • how is that Clearly Something Else Entirely?

                I'll answer your question because it doesn't have the inane hyperbole of the previous guy.

                It's different for the same reason that the guy who charges you $50 for a short flight from your local county airport to the nearest big city so you can catch an airline flight has to have a commercial pilot license while your friend who does it as a favor to you doesn't. And why the guy who is flying that commercial airline aircraft has an even higher level of certification and ongoing standards.

                That reason is that

                • You're still tap-dancing around the question. You've come up with a list of "what-if" scenarios, but only scenarios that tilt one direction. Why is it you're assuming that recreational noobs flying once or twice a month are safer than people who use the technology every day? Specifically.
                  • Why is it you're assuming that recreational noobs flying once or twice a month are safer than people who use the technology every day? Specifically.

                    I'm not.

                    • I'm not.

                      Then why aren't you calling for the same (or, really, much more) stringent regulations on the millions of casual noobs, instead of the comparative handful of people who happen to regularly use the technology as part of the bucket of professional tools? The vast majority of reckless behavior involving these devices is at the hands of idiotic beginners who - unlike professionals - don't think there are any consequences for operating like jackasses.

    • by NoKaOi ( 1415755 )

      should require the drone operator be a licensed pilot

      I hope you don't mean the same type of pilot's license required for manned non-ultralight aircraft. I think there should, however be a separate license for drone pilots. There needs to be a set of rules and procedures, with a license test that requires you to demonstrate you know them via a written test, similar concept to a HAM technical class license . It doesn't have to be a huge barrier to entry, just make sure you know the rules. If you fly a drone without a license or you break the rules then you

      • by Morgon ( 27979 )

        The other problem is that it would require you to assert things that are not actual law just to get the license, making fines all but a certainty. Revenue then becomes the incentive rather than fair play.

  • https://deals.slashdot.org/sal... [slashdot.org]

    I can see them getting even smaller in the future.

  • Regulating drones requires definition/implementation of new standards (fail at that one before), regulation (even bigger fail) and money and effort put into researching new technologies and protocols. In effect they have to corral an entire industry into a framework. It is no wonder that they failed and will probably not do it until someone big enough like Google does the equivalent by bringing in a consortium of companies to define and implement these standards, technologies and protocols. It is going to t
  • Both these companies could quickly come up with policies that would satisfy most regulatory laws. Google could probably have something the FAA could use as a blueprint out within a few weeks; Amazon really wants the drones to fly AND doesn't want it to be some insane schema but just enough regulation so their lawyers and insurers can get behind it from the risk mitigation standpoint. I think we need two different "classes" (at minimum) for this, commercial vs. civil. It's ridiculous (and has been talked
    • Both these companies could quickly come up with policies that would satisfy most regulatory laws. Google could probably have something the FAA could use as a blueprint out within a few weeks;

      Let me make sure I understand this: you are all in favor of corporate lobbyists with dogs in the fight writing laws that apply to them? I just want to make sure you understand that's what you're saying here.

      I think we need two different "classes" (at minimum) for this, commercial vs. civil.

      FAA has already created three categories: recreational, commercial, and public agency use.

      The conspiracy theorist in me says the FAA is dragging their feet because right now that feel they have total power over this,

      The FAA isn't "dragging their feet", they're being prudent in not creating laws that may have seriously bad side effects or not result in the effects that are desired. They just don't know yet how unmanned and m

    • I think we need two different "classes" (at minimum) for this, commercial vs. civil.

      That makes sense in full-scale aviation because the bar to having a big plane is money. But you can have a big quad without spending a lot of money.

      • by Morgon ( 27979 )

        That's quite relative. "big quads" are generally multiple thousands of dollars, out of reach for the vast majority of folks. Consumer-level DJI quads are ~$1K, but at 4 lbs, I'd hardly call them 'big'.

  • Bicycles need regulating more than drones. More than 800 people were killed in 1 year, more than twice the number that have died in mass shootings since the year 2000

  • There should be a simple set of rules governing drones, RC aircraft or anything else that files and is controlled from the ground with no pilot inside. These would be a set of rules that stipulate what you can do without a license. If you want to do anything outside these rules you would need permission from the FAA.

    The rules I propose are:
    1.No flying within x distance of any airport, landing strip, runway, airbase or aerodrome (there is probably already an FAA definition that covers anywhere piloted air ve

    • by Morgon ( 27979 )

      "4. No commercial flying" -- Uh, why do people consider this some magical transformation in the physical attributes of a quadcopter? Providing aerial footage for someone who does not have the means to do it themselves, and getting paid for the privilege, is not any more harmful than providing aerial footage for you and your friends. Thanks for conceding that putting videos on YouTube is not 'commercial'; the FAA has been disagreeing with that.

      Also, "7. No flying if you can't see your drone" is a little shor

    • The upper limits of your airspace over your property are not well defined, and they don't extend up to 400'. If you as a property owner, can show actual harm or a genuine threat of actual harm, you've probably got control over that airspace. (The highest the Supreme Court has ever ruled was controlled by the property owner is 83', as I remember, high enough not to frighten the chickens too much.)

      What do you have against commercial drone use? I'm happy with the idea of regulating this more heavily, bu

      • by jonwil ( 467024 )

        I never said "lets ban commercial drone use", I said "lets allow people to do a,b and c without a license but if they want to do anything else, they need a permit or license from the FAA"

        Exactly how hard that permit would be to get would depend on the intended use. A film studio wanting to use drones as part of a film shoot would need a different permit to a retailer wanting to use drones to deliver packages.

        As for flights over property, ok so introduce a rule limiting flights under these "general drone rul

  • IMHO, it's pretty simple. The FAA hasn't figured out how to completely bork the use of the technology to the point of always having to ask them for permission to fly in the form of regulatory fees. Thus far, most of the existing regulations are stupid. The 5-mile rule is dumb because the ILS approaches and patterns don't need that much space. The commercial rules are dumb because what makes anyone think that because you're getting paid to fly means that you're automatically going to do something stupid?

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