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#Dronies Trending Upward, In the Air and on Twitter

Paul Bohn, Esq.

Much to Taco Bell lovers’ chagrin, the U.S. government blocked the launch of a taco-delivery via drone company known as “Tacocopter” in 2011-2012. That’s because current FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations prohibit the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), including drones, for commercial purposes.

But, you can still use them for fun!

And that fun, combined with current society’s obsession with selfies, has jumpstarted the hashtag “dronies” whereby people take selfies via drone. And indeed, in Michigan and throughout the U.S., drones are becoming more and more commonplace.

FAA regulations currently prohibit drones from being flown above 400 feet – higher than that, they interfere with national airspace. Drones also cannot be flown within five miles of an airport. And, generally, they cannot weigh over 55 pounds.

While these national guidelines have been set, some local communities are also beginning to impose their own regulations on drones. From Capitol Hill to City Hall, people are calling for further regulation.

New York City in particular has been dubbed the “Wild West of Drones.” Unmanned aircraft are flying all over the city, and according the hobby stores of the city, drones have been a boon to their business.

However, they have also been running into buildings, crashing on public sidewalks, and raising privacy concerns among residents. One Manhattan lawyer, Brendan Schulman, told NPR earlier this year that he believes the solution is to apply existing law to this technology.

Schulman cites trespass laws, anti-stalking laws, peeping Tom laws, and unlawful surveillance as current law that would apply to improper use of drones. He also notes the good that drones can do – for example, helping to find missing children or stranded hikers.

Local governments, however, are likely more concerned about public safety as it relates to drone crashes. While the topic of drone regulation seems to be accelerating at the local level, recent reports say the FAA won’t have their new drone regulations ready until 2017.

Amazon, which hoped to launch drone delivery (Amazon “PrimeAir”), in the near future, has been perturbed by the FAA’s slowness. As we are sure Tacocopter has been as well.

For now, we’ll have to settle for taking to Twitter and posting our “dronies.”

Read more on this story on NPR’s Easter Michigan University affiliate: http://wemu.org/post/where-can-drones-fly-legal-limits-are-air



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