Have Drone Will Travel

 Monday, December 1, 2014
Drones can quickly ascertain storm damage

The long awaited FAA rules to keep the skies safe from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles takes a scorched earth approach by requiring operators to have a pilots license, which costs many thousands of dollars, and even then restricting flights to no more than 400 vertical feet during daylight hours only.

Talk about a deal killer.

Let’s hope the outcry, which will mimic the sound of angry bees made by the whirring propeller blades, gets the attention of killjoy bureaucrats.

Mandating a pilots license for flying a drone is like requiring a ham radio license for operation of a smart phone, or requiring Twitter users to have a broadcast license from the FCC.

Back in the mid 1970s when CB radio interest skyrocketed and the 23 channels became swamped by avid users the FCC allowed expansion to 40 channels to deal with the rise in popularity.  And yes, a license was required but all it took was filling out a form and sending in a check for $20.

Sure, like all things in life a nitwit few can give the huge majority of responsible aficionados a bad name by doing stupid irresponsible things.  Just as a hammer can be used as a weapon, so too can a drone flying at top speed into someone’s head.  Or getting too close to a commercial jet.

The recent technological improvements using GPS satellites navigation, return home failsafe features, and airport avoidance software demonstrates the industry is capable of policing itself.  DJI the industry leader, is doing for drones what AOL did for Internet usage 20 years ago — making things simpler and less scary.

Over the past year I can think of many occasions where Amherst public safety departments could have used an eye in the sky:  The Blarney Blowout or Southpoint Apartments fire quickly spring to mind.  Or search and rescue at the top The Notch.

A drone is fast, fearless, immune to smoke … and the camera never blinks.

Rather than throw a bucket of water on solid state circuitry, the FAA needs to apply simple, common sense rules to control drone usage over the land of the free.