back to article Drones thrown a bone: Americans can ask nicely to go where FAA says they can't roam

The US Department of Transportation is toying with allowing regional governments to set rules for drone owners that are otherwise incompatible with federal law. In a pilot program, no pun intended, the DoT will let quadcopter fanatics work with local officials to obtain waivers to operate their gizmos in ways that might not …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop it!

    We cannot have common sense. Cease it now!

    1. imanidiot Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Stop it!

      Allowing a drone to fly over a crowd of people, or beyond line of sight IS NOT COMMON SENSE AND SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED.

      I get pissed off at these sorts of idiotic ideas every time I hear them...

      1. stu 4

        Re: Stop it!

        >IS NOT COMMON SENSE AND SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED.

        sigh.

        If the operator is skilled, trained, and can show his drone has sufficient redundancy to be safe then of course it should be allowed.

        most countries (including this one) have similar schemes:

        http://www.caa.co.uk/Consumers/Unmanned-aircraft/Recreational-drones/Permissions-and-exemptions-for-drone-flights/

        Drone's really don't tend to just fall out the sky. Is it possible ? yes. likely. not in the slightest - the assessing of the risk and allowing these flights is exactly what this legislation is there for - to stop fuckwits flying there DJI phantoms over crowds, but to allow professional 8 rotor high redundancy drones to, under specific circumstances.

        I bet your ancestor was one of the ones running in front of cars with red flags...

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Stop it!

          @Stu4, like that octocopter that nearly took out a skier a while back? Or the numerous other incidents involving "professional pilots" using "professional equipment"?

          I'm a pilot, I know the rules and regulations I have to follow, one of them avoiding getting myself into any situation where I can not avoid potentially hitting people if something goes wrong. Like flying low over built up areas.

          For some systems on multirotor aircraft there is NO redundancy, even on the so called professional level units the control unit is just a single unit. Motor-controllers are starting to get integrated into a single package. There's only a single battery aboard, using a single battery protection circuit that can cut battery output if it thinks the battery might get damaged. Yes, an octocopter can still fly with one motor out, possibly with 2 out, depending which. But what kind of failure is going to lead to only a single drive unit failing in flight? Only a very small sub-set of them. To get a shot of a group of people, most of the time a simple large pole does the job just fine. If you really need more flexibility or height, there is still no need to fly a drone directly OVER people.

          Keep distance and maintain margins for errors from yourself, your hardware or other people. You know, like you get drilled into you when you start learning to safely operate an aircraft.

      2. Kimo

        Re: Stop it!

        I can agree that flying over crowds is problematic, but line of sight is a different issue. Let's say I have a herd of cattle running free range in Eastern Oregon, where the population density is about 1 person per square mile and air traffic is sparse at best. I want to use a drone to locate strays. If I am restricted to line of sight, I am little better off then driving a jeep all over sage brush country to find them. It is a little more risky flying outside of line of sight in Portland with a population density around 4,740 people per square mile and a busy international airport.

        1. G Olson

          Re: Stop it!

          I assume the range is private property? Then do what you want, crash your drone into your cattle, start a stampede, whatever. These laws are about what you can do in public.

          1. Kimo

            Re: Stop it!

            "Free Range" is usually public land. And the FAA covers all airspace, no matter if it is your property underneath it or not.

        2. Orv Silver badge

          Re: Stop it!

          I think part of the concern is that a drone being flown outside of line of sight may not have cameras good enough to see and avoid other air traffic. Obviously this probably isn't a concern if you're flying at six feet, but if you're flying at six hundred feet and your camera is pointed down, you're probably not going to be able to avoid an approaching helicopter.

      3. tinypilot

        Re: Stop it!

        That's the same kind of hysteria that people exhibited when manned aircraft started flying over cities. It's an unfounded fear. There are so many benefits that far outweigh the negatives. If you don't want progress, go live in a cave.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Stop it!

          I want progress. I fly quadcopters myself. I'm not being hysteric. I know a plane flying directly over a city has very few failure modes that leave it suddenly plummeting straight down. (Though for instance the El Al flight 1862 incident shows that there is still some risk in unusual situations). Also, air traffic over cities is still restricted and avoided where/when possible.

          Manned aircraft and helicopters remain controllable and landable for most failure modes involved the power systems. "Drones" have only one way to go. Straight down.

          Aviation has a long history of finding the safest way of doing things (as far as practically possible while keeping this workable). People seem to think that somehow the rules that govern a 1200 kg flying thing don't apply to a 1.2 kg flying thing, when in fact many of the same principles can be applied. None of them are hard to grasp. Something like "avoid getting into situations where you can't avoid hitting someone if things go wrong when there are other options" is not rocket science and should be applied.

          I'm not saying don't use/fly drones ever. I'm saying be sensible about how, when and where to use them. Overhead of large crowds is just NOT a good idea. Ever. Out of line-of-sight means no way to see and avoid other air traffic and because of limited field of view, limited situational awareness, making it easy to hit something or someone. I'm not saying don't allow it, but don't make allowing it the default. On a 500 square mile ranch with no neighbours, people or airports for miles around it can be allowed below a few hundred feet, but this is only a very limited sub-set of "drone" use. The VAST majority of "drone" flying is still numbnuts with a DJI Phantom making video's or possibly thinking they can imitate Team Blacksheep video's without any sort of planning, preparation or permission.

          Name me ONE good benefit for flying a "drone" directly over a large crowd of people. Give me ONE good argument to actually allow it instead of the "it's unfounded fear" strawman. I've given you plenty of reasons why it's a BAD idea. I've not seen one single argument to prove it's a good one.

  2. ma1010 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Speeding up approvals?

    Who knows? Maybe someday they may even approve LOHAN.

  3. Orv Silver badge

    This is not really unprecedented. The FAA frequently allows waivers for activities that don't otherwise fit the normal rules. For example, sailplane operations sometimes get "wave windows" to allow sailplane pilots flying VFR to ride mountain wave lift up into the flight levels, where normally you'd need an IFR flight plan. Air traffic control is notified when the window is active and routes traffic around (or over) it. The FAA is not as rigid about rules as people sometimes think, but it's definitely a case where it's better to ask for permission than forgiveness.

  4. 404 Silver badge
    Coat

    Red Threat Team says

    Letting drones out in the public domain is a bad idea. Really, really bad.

    It's just too easy.

    I'm out, avoiding crowds as I go...

  5. G R Goslin

    Oddly......

    Oddly, there seems to be no objections to hot air ballons, despite their lack of guidance, or avoidance, and I've yet to see one limiting it's elavation to 400 feet.

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