Drone Update as of February 20, 2015
While the FAA considers Green Vegans’ letter charging they have failed to abide by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) regarding the regulation of drones, consider this surprising and worrying additional background. Drones will provide many benefits and can be a useful technology if used responsibly. Unfortunately, drones and their advanced technology are ripe for abuse that the FAA has too long ignored.
They are available to anyone with money, meaning there are tens of thousands of drones now and countless more to come. Hobbyists will continue to have more drones of considerable speed and size than all other sectors. Commercial drones, up to fifty-pounds and one hundred miles per hour if proposed rules are adopted, are and will be in the minority compared to hobbyist aircraft. Rulemaking for commercial drones cannot escape the need for an environmental assessment that considers the total number of drones.
Taken together—and in individual instances—this many drones constitute a threat to public privacy interests, ecosystems and wildlife. With few exceptions, they are allowed to operate in public airspace. Hobbyists at present fly from ground level to 400 feet above—the approximate height of a forty storey building. The proposed commercial flight maximum is 500 feet. As we reported earlier, Amazon.com alone is reported to be selling 10,000 hobbyist drones every month. This is a new intrusion into human and wildlife habitats at a scale we’ve never experienced before.
Government agencies and first responders like fire and police services are making plans to increase their use of drones. And of course, amateur to professional hobbyists are yearning to fly where they want, filming, intruding on people and wildlife most often without any redeeming benefit compared to the impacts and next to no regulatory constraint. Continue reading