Situation normal in the world of drones is that for every good or happy story, there is a negative one. This week’s roundup covers fines, penalties, casualties, tightened laws and the consequences of inexperienced flying.
The BBC reports on a drone photography company hit with a six-figure dollar fine thanks to flights in congested airspace. Skypan International specialises in flights to help property developers see how their new buildings will fit in with existing constructions, but fell foul of laws regulating drone use in airspace over Chicago and New York. From August 2016, a tighter set of rules applied to drone flights, which were already subject to requirements on both operator and flight, although the drone photography flights in question took place before then. The company has apparently avoided an even heftier fine by paying a civil penalty rather than waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to rule on their proposed fine which was almost ten times as high.
With the official end of President Obama’s term, all the figures relating to his time in office have been released. Seemingly, at least according to Newsweek, drone strikes during his watch killed up to 117 civilians worldwide. This might come as a surprise to some who might have thought the toll would be higher. The same report suggests that around 3,000 fighters may have been killed in the same time frame, even though drones only came to wider knowledge in the last few years.
Fortune.com reports that there will be tight control over the airspace around Washington DC’s National Airport on the day of the President-elect’s inauguration. This is not perhaps unsurprising, but the ban this year includes drones. Hobby flyers will not be permitted within 30 miles of the airport, and a similar ban is in force around Trump Towers. Anyone infringing the law could find their drone confiscated and destroyed, as well as having to pay a fine and incurring a criminal record.
More consequences of irresponsible drone flying are being discussed by Washington state legislature after a string of incidents involving out of control unmanned aerial vehicles. Seattle seems to be the epicentre of these issues and the laws will likely look at cracking down on the use of drones in a manner which invades other people’s privacy. The bill’s sponsor is hoping to require drone owners to label their craft with their name and phone number as well as to seek consent from a property owner for overflying the location with a camera equipped drone.
Finally, another errant drone caused a fire at a farm in Western Australia. It is unclear whether the drone crashed in flames or whether the fire was started on impact, but the damage was unequivocable and an insurance claim is the result for the affected farmer. The drone was apparently being used for surveying on a neighbouring property but went off course and crashed into his field.
It seems as if drones and their operators will be subject to many more rules in the future than they are at the moment, mainly to safeguard property and other people from injury or invasion of privacy. More news on the case for and against drones will likely surface in the next few days, especially given the US President-elect’s famously tough-talking stance on many subjects. He’s bound to touch on regulations about drones soon, surely?
- bbc.co.uk/news/technology-38669028; Drone photography company to pay $200,000 fine; BBC Technology; 18 January 2017
- europe.newsweek.com/strikes-during-obamas-presidency-killed-many-117-civilians-545080?rm=eu; Drone Strikes Under Obama Killed up to 117 Civilians Worldwide, Intelligence Report Claims; Newsweek Europe; Jack Moore; 20 January 2017
- fortune.com/2017/01/18/no-drones-donald-trump-inauguration-day/; Don’t You Dare Fly a Drone Near Donald Trump On Inauguration Day; Fortune.com; Jonathan Vanian; 19 January 2017
- govtech.com/policy/After-a-Drone-Crashed-into-Seattles-Space-Needle-State-Lawmakers-Discuss-New-Regulations.html; After a Drone Crashed into Seattle’s Space Needle, State Lawmakers Discuss New Regulations; GovTech.org, originally from the News Tribune in Tacoma, WA; Melissa Santos; 17 January 2017
- farmweekly.com.au/news/agriculture/agribusiness/general-news/flaming-drone-blamed-for-stubble-fire/2754509.aspx; Flaming drone blamed for stubble fire; Farm Weekly; Mal Gill; 18 January 2017