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Electronic Frontier Foundation Government Transportation Technology

Hundreds Apply For FAA Drone Licenses 90

itwbennett writes: The Federal Aviation Administration has issued eight more commercial drone licenses, the latest approvals for several hundred applications it has received. The newest licenses went to companies planning to use drones for video and TV production, aerial photography and surveying and inspecting flare stacks in the oil, natural gas and petro-chemical industry. Other readers sent in followups to last week's stories about an enthusiast's drone that crashed onto the White House grounds, and the subsequent firmware update from the drone's manufacturer to enforce a no-fly zone in that area. The EFF argues that this is a shortsighted solution and only serves to highlight how the concept of ownership is increasingly being pulled out of users' hands. Meanwhile, such "no-fly zone" updates give rise to a host of liability issues for manufacturers and enthusiasts alike.
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Hundreds Apply For FAA Drone Licenses

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  • by jcam2 ( 248062 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @06:46PM (#48974327) Homepage

    This no-fly zone feature has been around for quite a while on their high-end models, to prevent users flying over an airport - see []

    Also, last time I checked the firmware update process involved connecting the quadcopter to a PC via a USB cable, so it's not like new rules are being applied without the user knowing.

    • that's fine but don't crash the drone into the ground have it seek back home or avoid the zone.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They get you to register so they can TAKE IT AWAY !! Don't do it !! It's a TRAP !! It's your constitutional RIGHT under the 2nd Amendment !!

    Don't Treat On Me !!

    • pretty shure having a spy drone isnt converd in gun rights. and if you read the liance it covers commercial use not a privet drone.
  • Washington DC is not a no-fly zone. It is subject to special flight rules. Programming the drones firmware to not fly in that area would prevent the operator from being able to operate the drone as allowed by the rules established by the FAA.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Which all points to what the rules should actually be. It should not be about no-fly zones, it should be all about 'Fly Zones', places where you are allowed to operate them with specific grades of licences. So very small ones, in you own yard only. Larger ones, at approved locations only, with an partial operators licence. General use, full licence requirement and the unit tagged to the licence holder. Your hobby is your hobby and you do not have the right to force it upon others. Same with all hobbies tho

      • Actually, the White House was already restricted air space. No private flights without a LOT of prior approval. Remember the drunk who crashed a stolen Cessna on the White House lawn? []
        • by mcl630 ( 1839996 )

          That restricted air space does *not* extend 25km from the White House like DJI's arbitrary no-fly zone does.

          • So? It was the manufacturer who decided on their own to initiate this addition to the list of no-fly zones. Not any government agency. And the update is optional. And the controller has a switch to ignore the no-fly zone list. This whole article is just more EFF-sponsored FUD.
            • Not optional for anybody buying one now.
              • Just like the previous no-fly zones weren't optional. So what?
                • The previous no fly zones were over airports. Not 15 miles around a landmark. Not even comparable. There new one excludes anybody inside the Beltway. Ridiculous.
                  • First, it was the drone company that made the decision to add the white house and the area around it. Second, the user has to manually install the update - it's not like they can do it OTA. Third, the controller has a switch to ignore no-fly zones.

                    So no, what's ridiculous is the EFF spinning this as some form of "loss of ownership", and all the people who are up in arms over it. Anyone pointing out that the EFF is once again full of it is goring a geek sacred cow. Just goes to show that, sadly enough, the

                    • Look on a map how big 15 miles around the White House is. About 1 million (with an M) live in that area. I don't give a shit about the EFF. If you bought one of these in that area and want the latest firmware, you're fucked. Unaware newbies buying one of those in that area will have no idea why their $1200 toy is now a paperweight. Now just wait for the lawyers to come in and try to claim the first class action. Should be fun.
                    • There will be no successful class actions. And if anyone buys one and it refuses to work, all they have to do is return it for a full refund, same as anything else.
                    • Or there will ;) The returns will almost certainly cost them a shitload.
                    • by mcl630 ( 1839996 )

                      There will be no successful class actions. And if anyone buys one and it refuses to work, all they have to do is return it for a full refund, same as anything else.

                      So, are they offering full refunds to people who own one and live within the newly-banned area?

                    • Probably not, since if you don't update, you can still fly it. You haven't lost anything.
    • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

      there is no such thing as a "no fly zone" in the US. It's a "Prohibited Airspace" red zone on a TAC, and for the most part PAs are permanent and extend to space. Flight is under Terminal Restriction rules 15nm around Ronald Reagan IA, Red Zone PA extends above the Capitol Building and the White House, and generally any air traffic (AT ALL) around the Baltimore-DC Metro area is subject to constant FAA monitoring with the added requirement of a permanently open channel to ATC.

      Citation: []

    • Re:No fly zone? (Score:4, Informative)

      by slimjim8094 ( 941042 ) <> on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @08:36PM (#48975157)

      The White House is prohibited airspace (P-56 []). There are no conditions in which a civilian would be allowed to operate there (otherwise it would merely be restricted airspace, and you could obtain permission). You pretty much have to be the President's helicopter to be allowed in (that is, convince the folks with the missiles to not shoot you down, which they will do if you don't comply with their fighter-jet intercept).

      The rules for operating in the DC SFRA can not be complied with by any drone on the market today (they require radio communication and a discrete transponder code).

      • The airspace over the United States is owned by the people of the United States. The FAA is tasked with assuring the safe use of that airspace. The FAA is not tasked with prohibiting us from using the space. That would be unconstitutional. I mean this to be understood with all kinds of sarcasm because the current and previous government have corrupted the purpose of the FAA by making zones where we cannot fly due to the movement of people who believe themselves to be people we cannot afford to lose, but in
        • The airspace over the United States is owned by the people of the United States.

          Low altitude airspace generally belongs to the land owner under that airspace. For example, the land owner can build buildings and radio towers on their land even if it inconveniences airplanes; pilots have to accommodate property owners, not the other way around. Commercial aviation simply has been granted a special exemption allowing them to fly through otherwise unused airspace. That exemption is not a property right and it

      • There are no conditions in which a civilian would be allowed to operate there

        You Insensitive Clod! I'm not only a civilian, I'm the President, and I'll fly my drone anywhere I want!

      • "We should use the heavy hand of government to strongly regulate these dangerous devices.... because a drunken, government employee crashed one on government property." []
  • when you're restricted to the 8 feet of air directly above your house, will it get boring?

  • by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @08:18PM (#48975051)
    Let's say commercial drones becomes common technology. How do they tell which drones are being flow by licensed operators and which ones aren't?

    Maybe they could require registration for commercially purchased drones. But what stops me from building a drone in my garage and zipping it around the neighborhood?

    • by mcl630 ( 1839996 )

      Nothing really (assuming you don't live within restricted airspace)... personal use is still unlicensed.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      There will have to be a licencing scheme, similar to cars. If your drone isn't licensed it will be captured and confiscated, just like your car.

      It sucks but if you consider what a bad idea people being allowed to throw tonnes of metal around at high speeds was on the ground you can see why allowing them to fly completely unregulated aircraft overhead probably isn't either.

  • There are some much more open platforms (hardware and software) available: []
  • I figured that some key details would get quickly overlooked, but I didn't expect so many people to ignore the fact that it was a government employee who crashed his private drone at the Whitehouse. []

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