Drone Regulations Ahead: NASA and UK Developing ‘Traffic System’
Drone Regulations Ahead: NASA and UK Developing UAV ‘Traffic System’
Soon, hobby and commercial drone operators may face new rules and hardware requirements.
NASA, in cooperation with the British government are working together to develop a traffic system for all low-flying drones below an altitude of 500 feet. The system will also offer a database for commercial drone pilots (like the future Amazon delivery system) to register their drones and track them for forthcoming flight regulations.
Currently, airspace is classified internationally by subsets under the spectrum of ‘A through G’, with Class A aircraft being set-aside for commercial flight and Class G being for small aircraft such as gliders and ‘micro lights’ — a classification which has virtually zero air traffic management systems in place. Where do UAV’s fit into the picture?
Despite Amazon’s plans, the only commercial drone licenses issued currently in the US are for use in Arctic research. Many hobby drones are equipped with Go-Pro cameras making it tempting to utilize for commercial benefits like photographing real estate, however, unbeknownst to some entities, even this is Federally banned in the US. From the sound of it, this is about to change worldwide over the next few years. Meanwhile, you can read the 82-page proceeding presented to the British House of Lords on “Civilian Use of Drones in the EU,” here.
Sacrificing Pleasure for Safety
The goal of efforts to incorporate ways to track and regulate all drones internationally hope to add an extra layer of security against would-be spies and attacks. Both NASA and the UK have partnered-up with the US cellular network provider Verizon to brainstorm surveillance ideas, while it looks as though drones could potentially be monitored in the future through triangulation of either terrestrial cellular towers and/or satellite GPS. Of course, this would mean that all drone operators could also be forced to include additional hardware on their unmanned aerial vehicles—an inconvenience and potential engineering issue—but it’s really too early to say what will happen yet with solving the new issues this exciting technology has brought to air spaces worldwide.
So far in 2015, the United States FAA has reported over 650 ‘close calls’ with drones this year. Due to the dangers of operating aircraft in restricted air spaces, they note,
“The FAA wants to send out a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal. Unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time.”
This warning may seem daunting to anyone who picks up a $300 quad-copter off the shelf at a store, but there are ways to still have fun and avoid these headaches while keeping everyone safe in the air and on the ground.
Know Before You Fly
Interested in becoming a hobby UAV operator? Are you a UAV operator and want to know the current Federal rules and regulations regarding your drone? For starters, according to the FAA, drones are considered “model aircraft” which, “are for hobby or recreational purposes only.”
“Individuals flying for hobby or recreation are strongly encouraged to follow safety guidelines, which include:
- “Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
- “Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
- “Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
- “Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying
- “Don’t fly near people or stadiums
- “Don’t fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs
- “Don’t be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft.”
Furthermore, the US National Park Service has banned the use of low-flying drones over lands protected by the Department of the Interior.
Check out this interactive map put together by the Smithsonian showing where it’s ‘safe to fly’ in the United States. As always, use your better judgement when engaging in these thrilling activities.
What do you think about the new international regulations in the works? Would you be willing to alter your hobby aircraft to comply with safety and security, or does it detract too much from the fun of having a loosely-regulated interest? What if hobbyists had to take a test to obtain a license before legally operating their UAV? Would this be any different from Amateur Radio? Have any great ideas that could minimize cost and headaches for hobbyists while keeping everyone safe from UAV risks? Hit us up in the comments! We’d love to hear your thoughts.
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