A few years ago, Amazon announced its plan to use delivery drones for package drop offs in as little as 30 minutes after purchase. A key part of completing the vision is developing a patented drone that satisfies Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. Amazon’s Prime Air is currently under patent review to ensure comprehensive safety and legal compliance.
Amazon is undoubtedly taking bold steps to increase its reliance on mechanical systems for daily operations. Many corporations are challenged to advance themselves through innovative concepts. Materializing such ideas requires meeting specific guidelines outlined by national and state regulations.
Acquiring FAA approval
Acquiring FAA approval for the use of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is a tedious process. Many factors are taken into consideration before approval is granted. The process of having a commercial drone approved by FAA includes satisfying proper registration and licensure requirements. Thorough testing is conducted on current state and national regulations for commercial drone use.
Possible legal issues for drone deliveries
Drone delivery propositions made to the FAA may result in legal conflict in areas of privacy and safety. Part 107 of the FAA has outlined a summary of drone regulations. Some of the obstacles corporations like Amazon and other businesses face include the prohibition of drones flying over the heads of individuals and traffic. Businesses and corporations have the option of requesting a waiver regarding the stipulations imposed.
The overall role of the FAA is to implement a framework of safety boundaries for aerial operations without blocking the advancement of futuristic innovation. It is a feat to balance advancement while satisfying tight regulations. However, many corporations and businesses are working within the legal framework to diversify the uses of drones for commercial use. As technology and the law work together, drone deliveries may become a reality.
California is home to 110 state parks, 8 national parks, 5 state historic parks and 1 state nature preserve. As you explore the state’s natural beauty this summer, you may want your drone to take photos of the landscape and wildlife.
However, drone use is carefully regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and California’s individual park districts. Before you pack your drone, make sure you can answer a few questions: Can you legally operate your drone within the park? In what section of the park can you use your drone? Have you received confirmation that drone use is acceptable within park boundaries?
Know the rules specific to the park in question
Generally speaking, drones are allowed in California state parks. However, you should check with the local park district before you fly your drone. Individual District Attendants may decide to ban drone use within a park’s boundaries, or within a specific section of the park. Also, any area that is designated as a wilderness area, cultural preserve or natural preserve bans the use of drones.
Additionally, you must adhere to all standard FAA drone regulations within the park. Park-specific regulations are in addition to the FAA’s national regulations; they do not replace FAA regulations.
Understanding drone bans within parks
Drone use may be limited or banned within a state park for many reasons, including:
- Protecting native wildlife
- Preventing accidents, injuries to pedestrians, fires and damage to facilities
- Negatively impacting other visitors’ enjoyment of the park
- Endangering privacy
- Threatening historically and culturally important areas
Drone use in public places is a highly controversial topic that is still under scrutiny. If you are unsure whether you can fly your drone in a specific area, check before you fly. Failing to do so can result in fines and even jail time. For example, if you were to accidentally fly your drone in one of California’s national parks, you could face over a $1,000 fine and even jail time. A simple phone call to the local park district before you go can prevent unnecessary problems
Drones interfering with other aircraft in the sky is becoming an increasing problem. Though no fatalities have occurred yet, it may only be a matter of time.
Drones can create risky flying conditions for other aircraft. Drones can weigh up to 50 pounds, they can disrupt the flight pattern enough to cause pilots to veer off course or they can create the need for pilots to make emergency landings. It may only be a matter of time before more serious incidents occur.
The following are just some of the drone incidents or crashes have been reported in the United States and elsewhere in the world:
- As recently as April 16, 2018, Heathrow Airport in London reported a drone flying within 20 feet above a 160-passenger commercial flight that was already 4,800 feet in the air. The United Kingdom, though not held to the FAA rules in the United States, has its own safety rules for flying drones in the UK skies. The UK rules overlap with US rules and state that the drone must be flown in line of sight and no higher than 400 feet.
- In February of 2018, a crash in South Carolina was linked to a drone flying near a helicopter. The helicopter pilot swerved to avoid hitting the drone and struck a tree. This was the first report of an aviation accident involving a drone in the United States. The crash occurred when a pilot in training was flying low to the ground to practice that low-flying maneuver, and the drone flew right into the line of the pilot’s sight, according to the report.
- On Feb 9, 2018, a drone struck a helicopter in on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, resulting in scratches to the helicopter. No injuries were reported.
- On October 12, 2017, a Canadian incident occurred in Quebec City last year when a drone struck a small, 8-seater passenger plane, causing minor damage to a wing.
- On September 21, 2017, a New York City drone incident involved an Army helicopter that was struck by a privately-owned drone. The FAA requires drones to be flown in the line of sight of the operator, but in this case the drone operator let the drone get out of the line of sight and the collision occurred. The Army pilot landed the helicopter safely.
Fortunately, in all cases reported above, the pilots managed to land their aircraft safely and incurred typically only minor damage to their planes or helicopters.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has clear guidelines for drone operators. Following the FAA rules could have prevented any one of these crashes. Many drone owners do follow the rules, but as noted by a leader from a hobbyist group, other drone operators are rebellious and will not follow the rules no matter what the rules are.
An ongoing argument exists between drone hobbyists and commercial companies that use drones in their businesses. The businesses argue that hobbyists should have to abide by rules just as the commercial companies must. Rules create fairness and safety for those operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the skies.
The companies are looking increasingly at drones to deliver goods faster and cheaper, but the companies are also subject to regulations to send drones on these delivery missions.
The hobbyists may see this registration as unnecessary or as an invasion of privacy because once a drone is registered, it is assigned an ID number which will be recognizable when the drone is in the air.
However, registration would assist police is solving crimes faster such as the Southern California couple who last December was arrested for selling drugs using drones to drop the product then having customers throw payment on their nearby lawn. Drone registration could allow police to solve these types of crimes faster or prevent them from occurring in the first place.
When is registration required for hobbyists?
Since December 17, 2017, drone owners have been required to register their drones. If your drone weighs at least .5 pounds and is less than or equal to 55 pounds, you must register it. The FAA states on their website that anyone not registering a drone that meets this weight is subject to civil and criminal penalties.
What is needed for hobbyists to register?
To complete your registration, you need to provide the following:
- Your name, email and address
- Model number
- Serial number
- Where you purchased the drone
You also must read several laws and check that you understand and will abide by them, which include:
- Follow the line of sight rule.
- Agree to stay away from others in the air, including drones, airplanes and other vehicles using the airspace.
- Contact any airport the hobbyist flies 5 miles or closer to.
- Promise not to interfere with first responder rescue efforts.
Registration requirements for commercial drones are the same. However, the list of questions you must agree to are different and includes:
- Flying during daytime hours
- Only flying in Class G airspace
- Staying under 400 feet
- Not flying over people
- Keeping speeds less than 100 mph
See FAA registration page for most current flight restrictions and registration guidelines.