Coddington, Hicks & Danforth

Drone hobbyists could face new regulations

In the U.S., drone operation is a rapidly growing hobby. As recreational aviators have taken to the sky in droves, they've largely done so without burdensome federal regulation. If one particular company gets it way, however, that could all change.

Alphabet Inc. is leading the charge to encourage congress to enact stricter regulations on drone hobbyists. The company, which plans to launch a commercial drone delivery service, is hitting back against an exemption that it sees as unfair to the business community. In their effort to level the playing field, Alphabet Inc.'s actions could mean a whole new set of rules for the casual drone pilot.

Previously clear skies

In 2012, a law was passed by congress that exempted drone hobbyists from U.S. aviation regulations. This provision accounts for the fact that recreational drone operators must adhere to users' group rules, which by and large encourage safe operation. As the drone landscape has changed considerably since 2012, however, the Commercial Drone Alliance--a larger trade group that includes Alphabet Inc.--argues that this allows hobbyists to skirt Federal Aviation Administration rules.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics, which is America's oldest hobby group, has said that additional restrictions aren't necessary. For their part, the group does acknowledge that renegade drone operators should face consequences.

This push comes at interesting time for drone regulations. The FAA is currently working on new rules that would require nearly all drones to broadcast their identities as a safety measure. More and more companies are also seeking changes to existing laws that would make commercial drone use far more viable. To be sure, federal drone laws could be on the precipice of a major shakeup for corporations and hobbyists alike.

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