Drones Flying Free 2017 Recap: What’s changed? Understanding the Updates to FAA Drone Regulations

March 22, 2017

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Drones Flying Free 2017 kicked off with a lively discussion of the challenging state of U.S. drone regulations. Since the FAA first began to require drone registration in December 2015, drone operators have had to contend with growing regulatory concerns – navigating not just the friendly skies, but a morass of requirements from a variety of regulatory bodies that now extend well beyond the FAA. The FAA may set the rules, but it’s the National Transportation Safety Board which actually determines if you’ve violated them, for example. And while you may have been careful to follow every FAA rule regarding your drone operations, state or local authorities may still come calling; as many as 20 states and dozens of municipalities across the country have enacted their own drone laws.

In this chaotic crowd of regulation, what is a simple drone operator to do? Surprisingly, the first step may be sorting out whether commercial or recreational regulations apply to you – the distinction is not as clear as you might think!

In their presentation, “What’s changed? Understanding the Updates to FAA Drone Regulations,” Skylogic Research CEO Colin Snow and Directions Magazine’s UAV Contributing Editor Bill McNeil discussed this fine distinction between commercial and recreational users, and provided tips on everything from where to put your registration number on your drone, to the many issues you should be considering now, before FAA regulations catch up to you.

One such issue concerns questions of privacy, Snow said, pointing to a number of court cases involving citizens who feel their right to privacy has been violated by drone flyovers. Privacy protection lies outside the scope of the FAA, but if the FAA doesn’t address the issue with flight restrictions, who will?

Another such issue, covered by McNeil, is lack of compliance with the FAA’s current registration requirements, and the possible consequences of non-compliance. Although fines -- and even imprisonment -- are already established consequences, McNeil predicts that additional punitive measures are forthcoming, possibly affecting drone technology itself.

These were just the tip of the iceberg of regulatory issues discussed during the hour-long presentation at Drones Flying Free 2017, an annual virtual conference co-hosted by Directions Magazine and the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence. You can view the full presentation of “What’s changed? Understanding the Updates to FAA Drone Regulations,” on the conference website, and gain access to the full list of additional resources provided by the presenters.


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