What's the Latest Development?
While the Federal Aviation Administration continues to figure out best practices for the use of commercial drones, a thriving black market has risen, involving possibly hundreds of drones taking overhead photos for a variety of clients. "Drones for hire are used on Hollywood film sets (to get that overhead shot cheaply), to create promotional videos for real estate and to help farmers crop dust and keep a bird's-eye view on livestock." One company lists the NFL and Indiana University as two of its many clients.
What's the Big Idea?
Drones of the type used by these companies -- small, weighing between 8 and 30 pounds -- are commonly seen in amateur fly clubs. However, once they start taking pictures of what they survey, their use becomes illegal. The FAA has recently launched 23 investigations, including one involving a business whose drone reportedly caused University of Virginia students to duck for cover. This incident illustrates another concern: the safety of nearby people, objects, and even other aircraft. Ben Gielow, a spokesperson for an industry trade association representing drone companies, says his members don't want to wait until the FAA's scheduled 2015 deadline for official regulations: "[They] are dying to know what the safety criteria is, so they can start making money."
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