March 11, 2014

If the FAA can regulate drones, it could be regulating "a flight in the air of a paper airplane or a toy balsa wood glider."

Said the federal administrative law judge who rejected the agency's attempt to fine the operator of a flower-delivering drone $10,000 for "reckless flying."

51 comments:

mccullough said...

This just means that officious local or state governments will ban them.

Mark said...

I see an employment opportunity for 10 year old boys with slingshots.

SteveR said...

A good friend works for a "company" that designs and builds UAVs (they aren't drones) and they can be very small, very much like the model planes people build and fly. Good luck regulating them.

EDH said...

You'd think they could define proscribed powered flight by RPMs, thrust, weight or payload.

Nonapod said...

Regulation is unnecessary now, but the way things are going it's likely that one day there will be swarms of these things filling up the airspace at which point regulation/rules will be a necessity.

rhhardin said...

Baseballs are drones too.

Chris said...

A good friend works for a "company" that designs and builds UAVs (they aren't drones)

What's the difference? Is "drone" the new "assault weapon"?

Andy Freeman said...

> You'd think they could define proscribed powered flight by RPMs, thrust, weight or payload.

What does RPMs have to do with anything?

Tiny model aircraft and the spruce goose ran basically the same prop RPMs because the useful range of prop RPMs is determined by the properties of air, not the properties of the vehicle using said prop. (This is why prop shape is the same too.)

Patrick O said...

And if the DMV can regulate vehicles with 2 wheels, it can regulate bicycles.

tim maguire said...

Spit is a drone, and I'd like it regulated in public places.

The Crack Emcee said...

I know a guy who makes drones - those things are going to be everywhere,...

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

one day there will be swarms of these things filling up the airspace at which point regulation/rules will be a necessity.

The swarms are inevitable, whether or not some busybodies attempt to impose rules. Attempting to micromanage them would cost more than it was worth - the busybodies would insist on neighborhood radars scanning everything so they could track every flying object, and they'd have to have their own robotic drones to chase and capture the evil unregulated UFOs, and the environmentalist would go ballistic when the robots busted their sacred birds.

Better just to lay in a 20-gage and some birdshot, and give block parties to practice local homeland defenses and marksmanship simultaneously.

tim maguire said...

It's also a bio-hazard. We should probably form a new federal department of flying bio-hazards.

glenn said...

Don't give em ideas.

mccullough said...

I will be a fun time to be a kid. They will be knocking these things out of the air left and right. Then the drone cronies will be demanding a new federal government department to stop 12-year-old boys from hitting the drones.

Robt C said...

I've never understood where radio-controlled model planes, which can be huge and/or jet propelled, stop and "drones" begin. Can someone provide or link to a good definition of the difference?

Nonapod said...

The swarms are inevitable, whether or not some busybodies attempt to impose rules. Attempting to micromanage them would cost more than it was worth - the busybodies would insist on neighborhood radars scanning everything so they could track every flying object, and they'd have to have their own robotic drones to chase and capture the evil unregulated UFOs, and the environmentalist would go ballistic when the robots busted their sacred birds.

By regulation I was thinking in terms of disallowing drones in certain airspaces, in particular airspaces that are occupied by passenger aircraft. God knows passenger planes already have enough trouble dealing with birds getting sucked into turbofans, imagine a hail of drones plinking into a 777.

Of course your right about the general creeping regulation of government, that the FAA or whomever would be more likely to take it to absurd levels.

MadisonMan said...

I thank the judge for restricting the expansion of bureaucratic oversight.

You just *know* someone at the FAA saw drone regulation as Job Security. Hey, if we regulate drones, I can hire my neighbor's idiot kid, or my ne'er-do-well brother-in-law on the Govt dime!

Well, those imbeciles might be out of the running for the job at the FAA but they can still run for Secy of State of State Treasurer in Wisconsin! The perfect job created for someone's stupid brother-in-law way back when.

Mark said...

If a drone crashes and hurts someone, who is liable?

Hagar said...

It is not absurd.
There is a lot of general aviation traffic that do not follow the airliner traffic corridors.
I could see private UAV's being prohibited from flying higher than 100 meters above ground and not at all within an airport's immediate airspace.
Perhaps certain "boxes could be set aside for hobby and experimental UAV maneuvering.
And I do expect UAV's with cameras to be subject to restrictions due to privacy concerns.

MadisonMan said...

If a drone crashes and hurts someone, who is liable?

The owner/operator?

How is this a hard question?

The Crack Emcee said...

Robt C,

"Can someone provide or link to a good definition of the difference?"

The ones they're talking about are kinda square, about the size of a large toaster, and have four propellers.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

The owner/operator? How is this a hard question?

Do tell how you learn who's the owner, who's the operator, find either one, and then win a court case against them.

richard mcenroe said...

Yeah it will be funny until the damn things start getting hung up on phone lines and transformers.

richard mcenroe said...

Nonapod: I recommend #6 birdshot with a modified or full choke.

Hagar said...

UAV is the proper name.

"Drone" is a misnomer, but has taken on the meaning of a military UAV, or a civilian one used for similar purposes.

At present, "model airplanes," or "aircraft," are rare and generally combustion engine powered with no mufflers, so they are already prohibited near residential neighborhoods due to noise regulations.
What is now being developed are small, relatively quiet, helicopter type UAV's carrying cameras, but still relatively cheap. and you will not appreciate your neighbor's kids operating one of those outside your bedroom window.

Regulations need to be written, and the devil will be in the details.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I've never understood where radio-controlled model planes, which can be huge and/or jet propelled, stop and "drones" begin. Can someone provide or link to a good definition of the difference?

That's just it-- any legal definition of the difference would be part of the FAA's regulations, for which it's already missed umpteen deadlines for issuing its proposals. (The existing regulations on model rockets might serve as an example of the sort of rules they might try to establish for UAVs-- notice that if it's lightweight and low-powered enough, the only real restriction on a rocket is that catchall that it "not create a hazard to persons, property, or other aircraft". I'd expect the privacy worries to be handled under the general laws covering surveillance and stalking-- not FAA regulations.)

MadisonMan said...

Do tell how you learn who's the owner, who's the operator, find either one, and then win a court case against them.

That you can't find who is liable doesn't void them of their responsibility.

It just makes you (or your health insurer) unlucky.

Nonapod said...

My uncle got my father a DJI Phantom for Christmas. One thing that was very surprising to me is just how fast it was and difficult to get used to controlling. Since it weighs a couple pounds you could easily accidentally seriously hurt or even kill someone with one.

Fred Drinkwater said...

The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) already define numerous aircraft types, by things like weight, power, performance features, basic type (helicopter, airplane, lighter-than-air, ...). Pilot's license requirements in particular, vary among these, and also their use (e.g. Part 135 Air Taxi and Commercial, Part 91 General Operating and Flight, Part 103 Ultralights, Part 101 Moored Balloons, ...).
There's plenty of precedent for regulation over both powered and unpowered flight, manned and unmanned.

Fred Drinkwater said...

And, going by the boneheaded dangerous (meaning: seriously endangering others) things people have done with aircraft, there's plenty of reason for regulation.
I'm OK with the very loose rules on "Experimental" type aircraft, for instance, because of the restrictions on where (read: how close to other people) they can be operated.

Andy Freeman said...

> At present, "model airplanes," or "aircraft," are rare and generally combustion engine powered with no mufflers, so they are already prohibited near residential neighborhoods due to noise regulations.

Since when?

tim maguire said...

Insufficient, that's just standard liability stuff. It's not a new question, not a special problem.

Hagar, I think the sense of absurdity is in the FAA pushing its regulations down so close to the ground. Their mandate is to regulate air traffic--that stuff way up high in the sky that transports people and things from one place to another.

Sure, conceivably, their purview could extend to anything not currently touching the ground, but that is very far afield of the purpose for which they are created. It's an aggressive mission creep. This is yet another area of life where limits that were once set by practical reality now need to be set by the courts or the legislature. And its a shame that these government agencies can never (absolutely never) take the initiative to do the right thing where the limits of their power are concerned. They are relentless in their rent-seeking.

SteveR said...

In my workplace experience a "drone" is a aircraft (jet or helicopter usually) capable of manned flight but set up to fly without a pilot for various purposes such as being a target for weapons testing. A "UAV" is designed to be unmanned, not converted from manned.

Amexpat said...

I'm sure parachutists won't be happy with swarms of unregulated drones in the air. We'll be seeing a lot more of this.

Larry J said...

Hagar said...
UAV is the proper name.

"Drone" is a misnomer, but has taken on the meaning of a military UAV, or a civilian one used for similar purposes.

At present, "model airplanes," or "aircraft," are rare and generally combustion engine powered with no mufflers, so they are already prohibited near residential neighborhoods due to noise regulations.
What is now being developed are small, relatively quiet, helicopter type UAV's carrying cameras, but still relatively cheap. and you will not appreciate your neighbor's kids operating one of those outside your bedroom window.

Regulations need to be written, and the devil will be in the details.


It's even more complicated than that. The military has bought thousands of small UAVs known as the RQ-11 Raven and the RQ-20 Puma. These are hand-launched electric-powered airplanes that carry cameras and a laser illuminator. They can fly up to 10,000 feet. The Raven can fly for up to 90 minutes on a charge and the Puma can go for up to two hours. They even did a test with the Puma last year where it was fitted with solar cells and stayed up for 8 hours.

Those are on the small end of the operational spectrum. At the other end, you have vehicles like the RQ-4 Global Hawk and the reported stealthy RQ-180. Engineers are working on much smaller UAVs as well.

Larry Nelson said...

How long before "fly sized" drones with microphones and cameras are available through Amazon.
We could be flies on the wall for corporate competitors, unfaithful spouses, or even NSA conferences...heh.
How would those things be regulated?

Nonapod said...

How long before "fly sized" drones with microphones and cameras are available through Amazon.
We could be flies on the wall for corporate competitors, unfaithful spouses, or even NSA conferences...heh.
How would those things be regulated?


Not regulated, but I could foresee various counter surveillance devices being developed (signal jammers, motion detectors, ect.). Sort of a surveyed vs surveilled arms race.

traditionalguy said...

Drones are male honey bees from unfertilized eggs so they cannot sting.

No wonder drones are perfectly legal. It's the War on Maleness again.

Damn those Queen bees!

Ignorance is Bliss said...

How long before "fly sized" drones with microphones and cameras are available through Amazon.

And if you buy a drone through Amazon, does it deliver itself?

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Not regulated, but I could foresee various counter surveillance devices being developed (signal jammers, motion detectors, ect.). Sort of a surveyed vs surveilled arms race.

Counter-surveillance devices? Let's go one step further to counter-UFO devices. They'll fly, they'll track the intruder, they'll chase and capture the intruder and bring it home for dissection. Their brothers will shine lights on the intruder to guide backyard shotgunners. Their next generation will be guided by ground-mounted trackers, whose own brothers will employ serious lasers to illuminate and cook the intruder.

Huge opportunities exist here for your adolescent's science projects - or his coordination with Mom and Dad who will man the projectile-launchers. Family fun for everyone.

John Scott said...

Even though hang gliding is self-regulated, we fall under FAR part 103. Besides airspace issues (we're not allow to fly above 18,000 ft., for example), we're not supposed to fly above congested areas. I'm not sure why these drones should be different.

Larry Nelson said...



Nonapod said...

Not regulated, but I could foresee various counter surveillance devices being developed (signal jammers, motion detectors, ect.). Sort of a surveyed vs surveilled arms race.

So eventually, Amazon will drone deliver drone counter surveillance to counter the NSA drone counter surveillance.

How will this affect the joy stick in the oval office? Will the president still be able to figure out how to do the drone attacks himself?

Larry Nelson said...

A buddy of mine had a drone helicopter that could be flown using the accelerometer in his iPhone (Tilt the iPhone to steer the helicopter), but he just never used it.
A few months later a friend of his bought one but didn't know how to use it. My buddy said, "here, I'll show you using my own iPhone" (an application that can be downloaded). He was able to control it up above the roof of a building, where the strong Alaska wind grabbed it, crashed it and destroyed the $300 toy. My buddy sheepishly said sorry, the wind was too strong.
He was surprised that there wasn't some IP address or coding that would limit whose cellphone could fly the device. I don't know anymore myself, just a second hand story.

Fen said...

They're going to be used for assassinations. Imagine 4 insect size drones partially made of a C4-type material. Fly them into the room, have 3 surround the target's skull at a distance of 1 foot, then detonate. I think the blast wave would scramble the brain without damaging the skull?

Hmmm. Knock at my door. brb...

virgil xenophon said...

I saw a panel discussion on C-Span about the regulatory and privacy problems inherent in the civilian use of drones., e.g., what if your neighbor wafts one above the fence-line to take pictures of your wife sunbathing topless in the back yard, things like that. It (trade-offs between privacy, commerce, regulation, etc) gets complicated REAL fast.

Kirk Parker said...

My favorite "UAV".

Kirk Parker said...

(Hat tip to JRR Tolkein, of course.)

glenn said...

Actually I'm going to see if I can still buy BB's for my Red Ryder Carbine. It's only 65 years old. Should work fine.

Rusty said...

Any bureauocracy will attempt to expand to encompass every concievable scenario in its domain.

Rusty said...

Any bureauocracy will attempt to expand to encompass every concievable scenario in its domain.