Droning on

Drones have become the hottest “toy” on the market, but recent episodes in the last year of operators crashing their airborne camera-laden crafts at sporting venues and special events spurred the federal government to review its policy regarding remote-controlled aircraft. Owners are now required to register the flying devices with the Federal Aviation Administration and the regulations are making it more difficult for agencies and hobbyists to use them.

Locally, drones have not caused the same stir they did nationwide and their use for commercial and legal purposes is limited.

“It is not something we have on our radar,” said Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz on whether or not the county planned to look into regulating the use of drones. “We’ve not had an issue [at Fulton County Airport]- folks are operating them in ways that are not irresponsible.”

Sheriff Richard Giardino said his department presently does not use drones, but that he does see the devices having a future for law enforcement.

“Currently we do not employ drones, but the law is rapidly changing when it comes to [the use of] drones,” said Giardino. “In terms of law enforcement, they can be used to help find missing people, or in situations with hostages or active shooters and for long, drawn out car chases,” Giardino said.

Continuing, he said he would be in favor of local legislature “to prevent drones from flying over the jail, correctional facilities or sport arenas.”

“We do not have anything on the drawing board at this time,” said Giardino, who will be attending a conference later this week addressing the use of drones.

For local enthusiasts, the recent regulations have caused their much-loved hobby to become marred in legalities and paperwork.

“In my personal opinion, it is another regulation that is burdensome by now making us register [our crafts],” said Flying 8 R/C Club member Rocco Conte. “It used to be if you were flying with a community-based organization, you were covered by federal legislature. Now it creates some problems for the average modeler.”

The FAA requires any drone or remote-controlled aircraft over .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds to be registered by the owner.

In order to register the craft, the owner must possess a credit card, email address and register the craft online. The registration number must be affix to the vehicle in a visible location or within the battery compartment if a tool is not needed to open it.

If the drone owner decides they want to use the remote-controlled device commercially, such as a photographer incorporating the flying device into their work, the owner will need to apply for an exemption from the FAA.

In addition, if a public or government entity – first responders, law officers, government officials – want to use a drone for their work responsibilities, they have to apply for a certificate of authorization from the FAA. Most exemption petitions take up to 120 days to process.

Ed DeRossi, also a member of Crazy 8, as well as a licensed pilot who works with an engineering firm as their drone pilot, said while hobbyists were covered easily enough under the registration process, those who think they may be able to make a dollar or two with their camera-equipped drones may find the process more laborious and costly.

“You actually have to have a pilot’s license,” said DeRossi.

According to DeRossi’s exemption paperwork, the person who operates the drone for the company or entity, must have a pilot’s license, air transport, commercial, private, recreational or sport pilot’s license.

DeRossi, who purchased his own personal drone last April, said they are helpful in a number of ways for the engineering firm he is employed by.

“We work on buildings, bridges and dams,” said DeRossi. “The drones are used to view the sites.”

Continuing, he added the drones allow for an overview of sites customers may be interested in purchasing, as well as helpful in structural repairs and assessments.

“Whenever I fly [a drone commercially] I must file a “notam,” said DeRossi, referring to a notice to the FAA similar to a flight plan.

Conte, pointing out all remote-controlled devices, not just drones, must now be registered with the federal government, said the issues were caused by a minority of people.

“Ninety-five percent of modelers fly with the safety rules – most have safety codes they must adhere to – 5 percent created the problems for the rest of the flyers,” said Conte. “If someone doesn’t know how to use their drone, we can help them. We want to teach and educate and point them in the right direction. We can show them the proper and safe way to use them and then they can go off and have fun.”

By -