Why More Drone Regulation is the Wrong Approach

Personal drones are just not the terror in the skies that we keep hearing about.

You do the math. The quote is from 2014. If sales remained flat through 2015 - they haven’t - that would be 720,000 personal drones sold in the past two years. If every one of them only flew two hours, and most fly more than that, there’s at least 1.5 million flight hours of personal drones worldwide, yet there is not one verifiable report of a drone crash that resulted in a serious injury to someone not connected to the flight.

Not one. (A Band-Aid or cold compress is not a serious injury - See CFR 49-830.2 ). It is a safety record that all other segments of aviation would be jealous to have. According to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, 100,000 hours in the General Aviation fleet would include at least one fatality. So, again. What threat? Where’s the blood and mayhem to justify the “experts’” fear-mongering?

Politicians like to refer to the FAA Drone data spreadsheet that was released last November as substantiation of their fears. They obviously did not read the reports, just the sensational title: “Drone Sightings.” Of the almost 200 reports, most were not within five miles of an airport, many are unverified, and none of them caused a pilot to make any evasive action. Airline pilots are reporting drones just like they were reporting UFOs in the ‘60s. Just change the word “UFO” to “drone,” and it’s the same script.

What’s completely missing from the entire file is the word “accident.” Many of the reports are in Class E airspace where the separation requirements for VFR flight are pretty general - “see and avoid.” Most amazing is that some of the pilots can even see a drone as claimed. Standing on the ground, looking up at the most popular drone model, the DJI Phantom, it becomes a barely perceptible speck at 200 feet, yet quite a few of the reports say the sighted drone was 500 feet or more away from them. One even reported “a few hundred yards” - good eagle eyes on that reporter.

Another “3,000 feet below ...” - that’s a threat, how? The FAA database of drone sightings even includes complaints from private citizens saying, for example “that a neighbor was flying a UAS over his home and neighboring homes at 100 feet the previous evening.” And another where the drone operator “was stuck in a tree to retrieve his UAV that had crashed into the same tree.” In one, a pilot said that “a drone was following him” - pretty good when most drone’s top speed is well below the stall speed of most aircraft.

Is the threshold for being on a list of drone sightings that low? The number of actual drone sightings that may present a threat to other aircraft is remarkably low, especially considering how many small personal drones are flying today. In one report, a police helicopter is pursuing a drone - who is threatening whom?

“Dangerous” and “invasion of privacy” concerns over small UAVs are ridiculous, driven by paranoia borne of ignorance.

About the Author

Stephen Mann · Stephen Mann, owner of Treetop Academy for Drone Flight Training, is an FAA certified Commercial pilot with instrument and flight instructor ratings. Also he is a photographer and videographer who has built and flown custom multirotor aircraft for three years.
Contact Stephen Mann: steve@mmdv.com  ·  View More by Stephen Mann.


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Article Topics

Robot Fun · Drones · Advice & Opinion · All Topics

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