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03Jan

FAA Remote ID Proposal Comments

If you haven’t already, I strongly urge you to share your comments with the FAA on the Federal Register regarding their Remote ID proposition. There are many issues with this proposed legislation that I have pointed out in this post. I have already reached out to my local Congresswoman expressing my dissatisfaction with this proposal, its violation on privacy, and its inefficiencies in handling drone airspace. You can read the questions I asked on the Federal Register here or you can read below. I highly recommend you politely share your thoughts on the Register as well since the FAA will be reviewing all the comments for the proposed regulations on the Federal Register here.

As a Part 107 Pilot, I have the following concerns with the proposed regulations:

1. Drones on the market today are very expensive, running drone pilots thousands of dollars and are built to last several years. The FAA is burdening pilots with subscription costs and the possibility of needing to buy newer, more expensive drones. The proposed regulations make older ones obsolete – what will the FAA propose to keep older drones still functional for Commercial Flying after the regulation is passed?

2. What happens to drones flying commercially in areas without an internet connection?

3. Drone pilots are currently following FAA rules because they’re easy to follow and implement and make sense to those flying them. Does the FAA understand that this heavy restriction on drone use will only encourage rogue drone flying in the future? How does the FAA plan to track older drone models that aren’t equipped with Remote ID technology? Is the FAA capable of “grounding” drones that do not have Remote ID technology? How does the FAA plan to enforce these rules without increasing the cost on taxpayers?

4. Consolidating hobbyists to “FAA Recognized Identification Areas” will actually pose a greater safety risk as the FAA is increasing drone traffic density to these designated areas whereas in the past, drone pilots have been spread out when flying recreationally. What is the solution to this proposed safety risk?

5. Increasing the amount of WiFi or radio signals around a drone runs the risk of losing communication with it. In fact, many drone manufacturers highly recommend keeping your cell phone on “Airplane Mode” while operating a drone so that external WiFi and cell signals do not interfere with the connection between the pilot’s controller and the drone itself. The implementation of Remote ID would force drones to have additional internet connections that could potentially interfere with the signal strengths between controllers and the drones. A drone losing signal can uncontrollably “fly away” and crash, thus posing a safety concern to the general public and other aircraft operating in the airspace. What is the FAA doing to mitigate this risk, especially when drones are flying beyond Line of Sight?

Thank you for taking the time to consider these issues.
02Jan

An Open Letter to the FAA

On December 26, 2019, the FAA sent an email to its subscribers illustrating ways in which the Administration plans to remotely identify drones over the next few years. The full proposal has been posted here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/12/31/2019-28100/remote-identification-of-unmanned-aircraft-systems

The FAA plans to control drone usage in one of three 3 ways: Standard, Limited, and FRIA.

There are several problems with all of these methods of tracking drones:

  1. Standard Remote Identification assumes that drone pilots will always have a stable internet connection everywhere they fly – this is simply false. There are many locations we fly commercially that have spotty internet connections but require drones at those areas to get the job done. This requirement will also significantly decrease drone performance as drone manufacturers now need to implement Remote ID technology on board the sUAS, reducing battery life and running the risk of interfering signals with other drones in the area.
  2. Limited Remote Identification severely limits a commercial flyer’s ability to service the client. In construction, for example, many areas requiring a survey extend beyond a 400ft radius around the pilot due to the nature of the work. Limiting the pilot to this “bubble” in effect eliminates the need for the drone altogether as lateral distance is critical in getting the photos needed to complete an aerial map, a survey, or a complete photogrammetry of a job site. Additionally, if there is an emergency requiring aerial assistance by emergency services, you are, in effect, hindering the ability of the drone pilot and emergency services to save a life.
  3. Both Standard and Limited Remote Identification options send out personal data of the pilot and drone to the general public – why? There is absolutely no need for the general public to be aware of what I am doing privately, especially if I am flying a drone on private property with the property owner’s permission. Moreover, sharing my private information to the general public essentially acts as an advertisement for someone to rob my expensive drone, especially if they have my drone model, my name, and my address all made conveniently available. Not only is this a massive violation of my privacy, but it also facilitates the ability for someone to steal a very expensive tool that many of us rely on for work.
  4. Remote ID technology will not only decrease drone battery performance, but it will also increase costs that we, the consumer, will need to pay. These costs include manufacturing costs that will be passed onto consumers, subscription costs for broadcasting drone locations, and power costs to keep the drone operational. The only people who lose in this scenario are the commercial drone pilots who have already expended a significant amount of cash on the drones they currently own and the certifications and training they received for the FAA. Moreover, drones on the market today will become obsolete overnight as they are not equipped with the technology the FAA is requiring in their Remote ID proposal.
  5. Pigeon-holing drone operators without Remote ID technology to FAA-Recognized Identification Areas will kill the hobby altogether. The whole point of owning and operating a drone is to fly it to hard-to-reach areas – to places people normally cannot go – to see things we normally cannot see. We, as drone enthusiasts, have no desire to be locked into a fixed location to fly a drone over an area that doesn’t have much to offer for the drone photographer.
  6. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. There hasn’t been a single incident in drone history involving a drone and aircraft collision. When I purchase a car from a dealership, I’m not required to install a tracking device on my car for the DMV to track me. So why are trying to do this to drones?

This proposal is working against the interests of the pilots it is trying to service. The commercial drone industry as it operates today will come to a screeching halt as costs rise to accommodate these Remote ID requirements and future generations of flyers are discouraged from flying altogether from the rising costs of the hobby and the limitations as to where they can fly. Drone pilots are already restricted enough as it is – why are we restricting them even further?

04Nov

The Mavic Mini & Drones Under 250g

There is a lot of misinformation regarding drones weighing less than 250 grams after the reveal of the DJI Mavic Mini. Many drone users are under the impression that a quad weighing less than 250 grams is exempt from all FAA rules and regulations.

Take, for example, this awful video of Casey Neistat fumbling his Mavic Mini around. At roughly 2 minutes into the video, he calls a friend and asks him about the Mavic Mini and how it relates to the FAA. “They don’t really have any oversight as to what you can do.”

FALSE.

The FAA regulates airspace over the United States and anything in that airspace is within the jurisdiction of the FAA – not your State, not your local county, not the city you live in, and definitely not a Casey Neistat YouTube video.

“You are considered a recreational flyer if you fly your drone for fun.”

Taken directly from the FAA website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/recreational_fliers/

That’s it. It has nothing to do with the weight of the drone or sUAS. The only thing the FAA wants you to do as a recreational flyer if your drone weighs 250 grams or more is register it. Otherwise, regardless of the weight of your drone, it is still subject to the same safety rules as drones weighing between 0.55 lbs (250 grams) and 55 lbs.

So, if you buy a Mavic Mini, please stay 5 miles away from airports, don’t fly over live traffic, don’t fly over people, and stay informed on rules and regulations. Don’t ruin the hobby for everyone else. I always strongly urge any and all drone operators (whether you’re flying commercially or for fun) to abide by Part 107 safety rules.

We all know that the second a drone causes a massive accident, government bureaucrats will jump on the opportunity to ban drones altogether. Don’t be that guy. Fly safe.

28Oct

Fly-In on a Mountain

I love hiking. And I love flying drones. Mash the two together and you get this video:

27Oct

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