The FAA is investigating New York City realtors who are using drones to document properties. They’ve also issued guidelines saying the use of model aircraft (drones) by farmers is unlawful. The guidance is the next absurd step in the never ending saga of government agencies that can’t figure out how to regulate new technology.
The FAA’s position is as simple as it is inane. If a realtor films buildings for fun using a remote controlled quadcopter that’s legal. But if she takes that same quadcopter and films buildings as part of her job, that is illegal. If a farmer flies a model aircraft over his cornfield doing barrel rolls and loops, that’s legal. But if he uses the same model airplane to determine how to conserve water or use less fertilizer that’s illegal. This is government regulation at its worst.
The FAA claims their decision is all about safety, FAA administrator Michael Huerta stated last week “We have a mandate to protect the American people in the air and on the ground, and the public expects us to carry out that mission.” But regulating based on commercial versus non-commercial use has nothing to do with safety, in fact it may be the worst way to draw the line on safe versus unsafe operations.