Flying High: Here’s the Lowdown on Drones


It seems like we’ve been hearing a lot about drones recently, right? That awesome “crane” shot in your favorite action movie probably wasn’t a crane. Drones have also given us amazing high-definition fly-over shots of the African Savanna.

Lately, though, we’ve seen drones flying in places they shouldn’t. A small, remote-controlled aircraft buzzed above the heads of players Flavia Pennetta and Monica Niculescu during the U.S. Open before crashing into the stands. A drone operator in California was arrested for flying the device within 50 feet of an LAPD helicopter.

Let’s admit it, remotely controlling a small, flying robot with a camera attached to it sounds like a lot of fun! But, as we can see, steering clear of the law can be difficult. Part of the problem is that there are very few laws directly applicable to drones, especially when used for recreational or hobby purposes. And, for now, most law enforcement and legal professionals will tell you that the best thing you can do is to follow the FAA Guidelines that apply to model aircraft.

Currently, anyone who wants to use drones for commercial purposes must apply for a certificate from the Secretary of Transportation, as required by Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. However, Section 333 is only a few paragraphs long and doesn’t come close to scratching the surface of the issues that are beginning to dominate the news.

That may be changing soon, though. The FAA has proposed a framework of regulations that would apply to small unmanned aircraft systems—rules that are different from those that apply to model aircraft. Many states have also proposed laws that would regulate the use of drones both commercially and recreationally. Until then, questions about peeping toms, drone injuries, and invasion of privacy will remain difficult.

Those of us who enjoy flying our little winged robots around the park should follow FAA guidelines as best as we can to keep our neighborhood and the sky above it safe!

If you’ve had a concerning experience with a drone, we at Geoff McDonald & Associates are here to help you understand your rights and options. Happy flying!

By Jeremy White, Esquire, Geoff McDonald & Associates
Photo: Michael MK Khor


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