The use of unmanned aerial vehicles commonly called drones is proliferating throughout the tri-state area. The ability to get a bird’s-eye view from a camera mounted inside a tiny quadcopter has proved beneficial to numerous industries, including agriculture, construction, energy, real estate, tourism, hospitality, film and television, marketing and advertising, and data collection. Though the use of commercial drones is currently in its infancy, economists estimate that by 2025, commercial drones will contribute about $5 billion to the national economy. But as the number of drones filling the skies grows, does their potential to cause injuries also increase?
Just as commercial drone use is in its nascent stage, so are the regulations governing their use. The Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, regulates drone use and recently issued new rules covering a wide range of commercial uses for drones weighing less than 55 pounds. Highlights of the new rules include:
- An operator or a visual observer must keep the drone within unaided sight (e.g., no binoculars).
- An operator or visual observer cannot be responsible for more than one drone at a time.
- Flight is permitted in daylight and twilight.
- Minimum visibility for operation is three miles.
- Maximum altitude is 400 feet.
- Maximum speed is 100 miles per hour.
- Operation is prohibited above any person not participating in the flight who is not under a covered structure or inside a covered vehicle.
- An operator may not control a drone from a moving vehicle except over a sparsely populated area.
- External loads are permitted provided the weight of the aircraft plus load is less than 55 pounds.
- Pilot certification is necessary for certain operations.
Clearly, the FAA rules are written to allow for widespread commercial use while reducing the likelihood of serious accidents. Yet, as drone use continues to expand, are rule violations and subsequent severe injuries to passersby inevitable?
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