This week, we are going to spend some time with Joe. Joe is your average ordinary kind of guy. He has a technical degree and works for an engineering firm. On occasion, he watches “Downton Abbey” with his wife, but he prefers watching shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and “Face Off.” Needless to say, Joe has twice taken his kids to see the new Star Wars movie. This past Christmas, Joe received a very exciting gift from his family, and he couldn’t be happier.
Joe finally owns a drone.
However, Joe is very confused about using his drone. Like everyone else, he’s read numerous news stories about drones crashing into stadiums and disrupting air flight. He’s investigated the stories, and the data seems to indicate that the issue is overblown (Joe is a technical-minded person, after all). However, the public perception remains — drones are bad, and the people who own drones are nothing more than anarchists who want to steal your privacy and credit card numbers.
Poor Joe. All he wants to do is fly safely and take a few pictures of his kids riding their bikes and such. What is he going to do?
Fortunately for Joe, the Federal Aviation Administration has finally stepped up and provided some guidance. The FAA has been silent on the subject for too many years — which Joe notes is probably the correct action, since Congress hasn’t passed any laws regarding drones. But Joe remembers that last fall the FAA issued guidelines for the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UASs. (FYI — that’s what the government calls drones.) After a quick internet search and a couple of hours of reading bureaucratic publications, Joe discovers that the following bullet points summarize all the rules:
- Be safe and respectful of other people.
- Don’t fly your drone in areas where UAS (i.e., drone) use is restricted.
- Don’t fly for money.
- If your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, (the same as approximately two sticks of butter), register your UAS (i.e., drone) by February 19, 2016.
Ah, yes, the call to action — Register Your Drone!
While Joe’s first reaction is somewhat defensive (“Why does the federal government need to know that Joe has a drone? Does Joe really pose an existential threat to the security of the United States?”), after some contemplation, Joe realizes that this is probably a reasonable action. Stupid people will continue to do stupid things with their drones. A registration number will allow law enforcement to trace the drone and cite the stupid person for being stupid. (Of course, this presumes that the stupid person registers their drone.)
Since Joe doesn’t consider himself a stupid person (maybe a little absent minded on occasion), Joe registers his UAS (i.e., drone). To the credit of the FAA, the process is really simple. After a quick search, Joe finds the link to registermyuas.faa.gov. Joe creates a user account on the government website linked to his verified email address. The registration form requests Joe’s name and address, and asks Joe to certify the following, completely reasonable statements:
- I will fly below 400 feet
- I will fly within visual line of sight
- I will be aware of FAA airspace requirements —faa.gov/go/uastfr
- I will not fly directly over people
- I will not fly over stadiums and sports events
- I will not fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
- I will not fly near aircraft, especially near airports
- I will not fly under the influence
The registration fee is $5, so Joe enters his credit card information. Since Joe is registering before January 21, 2016, Joe will be refunded the registration fee. However, the credit card information is required to continue. When all is done, Joe successfully completes the registration process. The FAA website provides Joe his UAS (i.e., drone) registration number, and Joe dutifully marks his drone with the registration number.
Joe is now compliant with the regulations, and that’s a good thing. Joe can now fly his drone in a safe and responsible manner, which is exactly what Joe intends to do!
(Stay tuned for more of Joe’s drone adventures!)