UAV Guidance: May Day?

Hmm.  What to blog about? Wouldn’t want to drone on and yet there are no new regulations or laws or policy statements for private sector unmanned aerial vehicle (“UAV”) stakeholders.  Just the status quo (if you consider enforcement actions the normal for UAV operations). That’s a curious fact this May Day — a/k/a “Law Day” here in the United States.  As it plans for the 800 year anniversary of the Magna Carta, the American Bar Association reminds us

One of our most cherished national ideals, expressed eloquently by Abraham Lincoln, is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” It is a principle enshrined in our Nation’s founding documents, from the Declaration of Independence’s assurance that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed, to the opening three words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, “We the People.”

So, what is going on out there as the federal government plays defense from a potentially drone-enabled constituency:

As lightning flashed ominously in the distance, video footage, courtesy of a small camera-bearing flying machine, showed the unmistakable footprint of a massive tornado: a vast debris field next to an interstate in Mayflower, Ark.  That footage, taken by storm chaser and photographer Brian Emfinger on Sunday, is now being investigated by federal aviation officials, after a local TV news channel used it as part of its disaster coverage. Mr. Emfinger, a Little Rock-based photojournalist, could be fined $10,000 if the government decides to pursue him for illegal drone-flying.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) insists that such “drone journalism” isn’t legal because it breaks rules against commercial use of unmanned aircraft. Nonetheless, some drone experts say the footage of post-tornado Mayflower heralds “the dawn of the drone journalism age” – a potentially vexing frontier that pits curious citizens against a government with qualms about the spying potential of drones.

This (above) from a report from The Christian Science Monitor in connection with the devastating weather that tore through the South this week.  Who would have thought of the FAA as the arbiter of the First Amendment?

Meanwhile, there is new also of a teen who founded DroneCast, a company that uses drones to advertise with banners in the sky.  (Go West, young man.)

Oh, and in the United States, Senators have dropped a demand for a public declaration of how many civilians the United States kills in CIA drone strikes each year after the U.S. intelligence chief expressed concerns.  (Three people were killed yesterday in Afghanistan.) Abroad, commentators focus on Israeli UAV capabilities.  And, don’t forget the free lecture this Friday at Central Connecticut State University (see here, too)  to discuss the threat of drones to the public.

So, I guess there was something to say here.

In other news, as I was leaving Miami International Airport yesterday afternoon there was a drone hovering outside a store. Really.  Passengers passing by looked interested, worried more about baggage fees than privacy rights.  Technically it was in my path in the terminal, but I walked around it uneventfully.  That was the least of the FAA’s worries yesterday in managing aviation operations from sea to shining sea.