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Drones: Open For Business

droneLast week a federal judge dismissed a $10,000 fine the FAA had levied against a drone operator, saying there is no law to ban the commercial use of small drones.  Small drones are those that fly at less than 400 feet, as opposed to larger military-style drones that share the skies with airplanes and helicopters.  The court’s ruling deems small drones to be the same as model airplanes and not subject to current FAA regulations.  The FAA had levied the 10K fine against Raphael Pirker for allegedly operating a drone recklessly while filming a commercial for the University of Virginia’s medical school.  So far, Pirker is the only person to have a fine levied for using a drone, but the FAA has sent letters and made calls to other drone operators.  The FAA announced after the ruling that they would be proposing a rule on small drone use by the end of the year, but in the mean time, it appears that use of small drones is fair game for businesses wishing to use them.

I’m well aware of the varying opinions about drones and that many people are completely opposed to their use, but I would encourage those people to take another look at drones, the current devices on the market and their potential use for business opportunities, public safety and news.  A month or so ago there was a news item about a company in Minnesota that had planned to use drones to deliver beer to ice fisherman on frozen lakes.  The FAA got wind of the plan and shut it down.  That plan is now being reconsidered by the Minnesota Micro Brewery as a result of the court ruling.  While I would wonder how the company would verify the age of the recipient, I have to admire their business initiative in seeing a potential market for their product and finding a way to deliver it to their customers wherever they may be. 

Another business I read of has created a drone they call the Dehogaflier.  The drone carries a thermal imaging camera and feeds the video to a screen on the ground, where the operators watch for wild hogs at night. Wild hogs are a supreme problem for farmers in some areas and do millions of dollars in damage to crops and land.  When a wild hog is spotted on the video feed from the drone, a shooter on the ground is dispatched to the exact area and takes down the feral hog with a night vision-equipped rifle. 

Other businesses uses for drones include land surveys, taking pictures or video, news reporting, traffic monitoring, spraying crops and security.  And who knows what other uses some innovative business owners will dream up.  The fears that some people have over privacy issues should not be allowed to put the brakes on this burgeoning market.  Privacy laws still apply and use of a drone doesn’t exempt someone from laws against violation of privacy.  The same with law enforcement use of drones – the Fourth Amendment search and seizure laws still apply. 

While there may be some issues crop up over questionable use of drones by some people, that does not mean that use of this fairly new technology should not be allowed by anyone.  As with any new technology on the market, there will always be a few who find objectionable ways to use it.  The benefits to businesses and our economy should not suffer because of a few miscreants or because of the misguided fears of people who envision drones taking pictures outside their bedroom windows. 

3 comments to Drones: Open For Business

  • I see nothing wrong with the use of drones, for business or personal use. You mentioned several uses, but another I could think of is on some of the cattle or sheep ranches in the west. Can you imagine how much easier and quicker it would be to look for lost animals with a drone, rather than searching on foot, with horses, or on ATVs? Now that is a use I could condone with an honest heart. I’ve had to look for cows trying to hide their calves before. That’s a pain.

    The technology can be a bit scary, as it seems to be advancing at an alarming rate, but we should let it scare us completely away.

    • Indeed, looking for cattle would certainly be easier with a drone. I think some technologies can be a bit scary when first introduced to society until people come to see their benefits. I believe the media has somewhat turned a lot of people off from drones with their reporting. I actually spoke to one person at my office who was under the impression if drones weren’t made illegal in Oklahoma that we would have weaponized drones flying around murdering people. There’s just no reasoning with some people.

  • You are absolutely right. Hysteria does nothing, other than making us look foolish.

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