, Derry, New Hampshire


January 16, 2014

About the Law: There's a lot of buzz about drones

My neighbor got one of those small drones over the holidays. It’s about 3-feet wide.

They buzz it up and down the street and up and over people’s yards. What’s the law on this and where’s the line on where drones can fly?

This area of the law is developing rapidly. The Federal Aviation Administration on Dec. 30, 2013, designated six test sites to research unmanned aerial vehicles. The goal is to integrate drone operation safely into all airspace.

Congress ordered the FAA to adopt regulations by the end of 2015 on what the government calls “unmanned aircraft systems,” including commercial, civil and model aircraft type objects.

Until then, private citizens operating smaller drones, the type you can buy at the mall or a hobby shop, are covered by a 1981 FAA Advisory Circular cautioning not to fly the devices higher than 400 feet and to notify airports or control towers when flying within 3 miles of an airport.

A report available online, Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues released in April 2013, details the laws, or lack thereof, in this area.

Amazon created huge headlines with plans to deliver packages by drone. Actually, many companies are considering the idea. That’s why FAA rulemaking is now urgent. Rules for commercial and private drones will be very different.

Larger issues loom over drones with cameras. Real estate agents love them. “Paparazzi” chasing stars want them. But, what about the nosy neighbor?

New rules may come in the case of a commercial photographer challenging the FAA. The University of Virginia hired a company to produce publicity. After photo drones flew around, including through a tunnel, the FAA fined the company $10,000. The photographer is challenging, claiming there’s no enforceable federal regulation. More on drone law as it changes.

Six months ago, I signed a one-year contract for advertising my new business. The contract terms say it is non-cancellable, but that with advance notice, weeks can be discontinued.

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