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FAA Moves Toward Treating Drones and Planes as Equals (hackaday.com)
162 points by szczys 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 225 comments





When I started my first coding job, I once made the joke that "testing is hard. I'll just push the code to production and see what happens." An old, crusty engineer just looked at me and said, "you're the kind of person that gets people killed."

I feel like 99% of the engineers who comment on HN don't work in fields where their technology could kill someone if it messes up. If an error meant someone's death, you'd probably think a little harder for committing. That's why I'm not taking anyone who calls this "draconian" or derisively "risk averse" seriously.

Being a safety-first industry is not a punch line. Life is stochastic, not deterministic, and the FAA exists to add as many 9s to the likelihood of success as possible. Sorry your fun is ruined, but when I fly in a plane I don't want to be worrying if some hobbyist with more money than accountability will put my life at risk because they wanted to make a cool video to put on YouTube.


I agree completely. This coming from a flight software dev, instrument pilot and EAB aircraft builder: embrace the FAA and it's regulation. Don't be afraid to work with them either. If you think for a second that the UAV industry (both hobby and commercial) is going to stop at little quadcopters and 400ft, you're sorely mistaken. Not even the sky is the limit if you learn to work within the mindset that your decisions have consequences, so you very very much want to be treated as equals to manned systems. I know it sounds restrictive but manned aircraft can basically do anything and go anywhere, they just have to take certain precautions.

Tangential - any advice for software devs looking for entry level experience in the industry? It's a topic I'm passionate about and would love to branch into, but I started in computer science and don't have any aerospace experience.

Look into companies like Boeing and Airbus, then branch out into their suppliers and subcontractors. CS is all you need to get started in safety critical software (entry level positions). You’ll learn more on the job, and learn what other disciplines you should study.

Working with a supplier may prove more fruitful. Depending on the size of their components, you can be more active throughout the year. Working direct for Boeing and their peers can leave you with months of downtime sometimes (especially if you end up in the maintenance end of a system’s lifecycle and not the initial development period).


I appreciate the bit about looking into other firms in the supply chain, as I hadn't thought of that whatsoever. I'll start looking into how I fit entry level reqs for safety critical software roles. Thank you for the advice!

I got my start in the supply chain end (safety critical systems, mostly for airliners some DoD aircraft). I moved to other related areas (though not always safety critical). I had a number of friends who went to the big companies like Boeing and Airbus and they found it either very good or very bad, not much in the middle. They either had interesting (for them) work, or were stuck in a kind of nursery waiting for things to do for months at a time, and prevented from doing anything else meaningful by various corporate policies. That is my only real hesitation with those types of companies as places for a first job in the field.

In short, learn C, FPGA development or both, and get used to low level computing. Pay attention in your computer architecture class!

Thank you for the advice! Been out of school for about a year now, but that class was my favorite by far.

Systemantics by John Gall is worth a look, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systemantics

Will definitely add this to my study list. Thank you for sharing!

Man, your comment hits home. I desperately want a drone as a toy but under the guise to check my gutters if they’re clogged.

However, next to where I live is a small airfield and, at times, we have small private jets and sesnas flying next to us.

What always stopped me from buying the drone was because I simply didn’t want to put myself in a position to have that one malfunction that causes the drone to soar and accidentally damage the plane. Regardless of how improbable or unlikely, I just didn’t want to be “that guy”.


Get a UK65/UR65 quadcopter, a pair of goggles and a transmitter and off you go.

Or a Blade Inductrix FPV RTF kit that comes with everything, even a charger!

These quads are so tiny and won't do any damage even to walls, I fly them around the house, so they won't mess up any airplane traffic!


Thanks, I’ll def check it out.

Also, with regard to some folks who are replying to you, it seems that FAA does not seem to think drones or hobby weather balloons below 500 grams is a risk to planes. At least my preliminary search hasn’t found anything.

I’m guessing that even if 100 gram drone gets sucked into a turbine, the plane will hardly notice. I’ll keep looking into it and see if my local airfield has an opinion on 100 g drones, as well.


How confident are you a 100g toy pulled through a turbofan or propeller won’t mess it up?

Sure, if it stays inside your house, quite confident.

I’m quite confident the only thing other than air a turbofan or aircraft propeller is designed to cope with is rain / fog / cloud.

Edit to add: looks like the toys you mentioned are around 30g. I stand by my point though.


Actually, they fire chickens at them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_gun


Chickens do not have stainless steel, glass, or aluminum components, nor lithium ion battery packs.

And I have well over a dozen quadcopters (not drones, because I manually pilot them) right here next to me.


Indeed!

Jet engines and aircraft windshields are particularly vulnerable to damage from such strikes

Definitely one of my all-time favourite things to watch are videos of said chicken cannons ;)

Turbofans are designed to cope with bird strikes in the the-end-didn’t-fly-apart-and-fatally-damage-the-aircraft sense of cope.


It is not your place to decide what your device will or will not damage. This is precisely why regulations on what can fly where exist. You stand to lose a $100 toy, someone might lose a life. With this asymmetry in mind, regulation simply must exist. You personally might be responsible, but not everyone is. Try to be conscious of this. These are lives at hand, not just your ability to play with flying toys.

What are you on about? I am flying inside my own house!

Like the sibling commenter, I recommend a $50 TINY7 quad as by far the most fun per buck I've had. It's indoor-only, as it's too small to fly in any sort of wind, but it's super fun and you can learn to do loops, tricks and fly over/under/through furniture.

EDIT: The UR65 the sibling commenter mention looks better, it's brushless, which means much better speed/agility.


When is the last time someone was killed playing with their toy quadcopter in the back yard?

No one probably. Because toy quadcopters don’t have range past your house’s roof.

Are you missing the point of the regulations and guidelines?


The point is that as of now there are no guidelines and regulations - which means no exceptions yet. I think everyone is hoping or assuming that little toy quads won’t count, but until we see the regulations we don’t know what qualifies as a ‘little toy’.

What an accuracy hit.

Few years ago I was watching across some YouTube video about drones. In one video, some guy was flying a hacked DJI drone to workaround the limitation so just he can fly it higher.

I of course concerned about it because the altitude he have reached is well above the limit set by FAA. So I wrote a comment to ask about hes acknowledgement on those FAA rules. And what's followed was a debate that lasted almost a week.

Today, you can still found that kind of videos on YouTube where people are flying hacked drones to "Break/Test the limits".

I hope somebody like FAA can do something to prevent people from doing stupid things (Hack their drone so it can fly higher etc), and make the sky safer.


Explain to me how my flying a 4 pound drone at a height of 100 ft to take a photo of my home is putting someones life in danger to the point where the FAA should require me to register my activity and pass a license program?

Edit:

"my kid are playing in our backyard. Do I have the right of privacy?": No you do not have a Right to privacy, I can put a camera on my roof or pole and record your backyard if I wanted and there is nothing legally you could do about it

Drones falling from the sky: General liability laws would apply no different than if I am mowing my lawn and a rock flys out and hits you, or if I am play yard Darts and I toss one over your fence which injures you.

I can not prove it is safe: That is not how a free society works, the burden is not on me to prove my actions are safe, the burden is on YOU to prove that my actions have a more likely than not probability of causing physical harm to others or their property

Other Air Traffic Hitting a Wing: Why are they below 400ft, or the less than 100 ft I would fly but still be under the FAA Regulations, My entire point is that under 100ft should not be under the FAA at all,


1. If you don't understand how you flying 4pound drone at 100ft is putting somebody's life in danger, you absolutely under no circumstances should own or use a drone of any kind. Sorry if that sounds personal or insulting, but I'll stand by that statement.

2. I have a Mavic Air plus a few smaller drones. I'm extremely aware that I can push this thing to 65km/h and do some solid damage, either maliciously, but much much more likely carelessly

3. I have lent several drones to several intelligent, typically safe friends, either under my supervision or alone in a field. Universally they pushed them too hard too fast and lost control quickly. [I don't care if you're going to say "but that's not me". a) Every one of my friends said that, and b) how is anybody else to trust that _your_ claim specifically is truthful? Prove it.]

4. The more intelligent the drone, unfortunately the more likely the person is to underestimate its danger because "these things fly themselves" and "it has collision avoidance". My nerd friends have started using them like Tesla's autopilot - perfectly safe and awesome until the very moment it isn't, at which point it's too late if you don't have your hands actively on controls.

So as much as it'll HUUUUUGELY inconvenience me, I fully understand that if I need to register and license my car, motorcycle, boat, plane, etc... I need to register and license my other fast-moving piece of dangerous machinery.


It's obviously hyperbolic to claim that there is virtually zero safety risk of a 4 pound drone, but I also see a lot of hyperbolic exaggeration of the risk. The two main risk categories of drones are interference with aircraft and interference with the ground.

The aircraft risk is almost entirely mitigated by not flying your drone anywhere near low-flying aircraft. That requires a small amount of research. You should be far enough away from aircraft that the risk of your drone losing control and flying into aircraft flight paths (whether due to malfunction or operator mistake) is virtually zero.

The ground risk is harder to mitigate, because the normal failure states of a drone are falls and short but fast uncontrolled horizontal flights. The risk of property damage or injury in these cases is very real, but I think it's on par with the risk of some common recreational activities (like throwing or hitting a baseball), and much lower than the risk of some very common and well-accepted activities (like driving a car).

All these things (flying a small drone, playing baseball, driving a car, etc.) require some knowledge and diligence. I believe society can, should, and will establish a set of safety expectations and risk acceptance for new things (like drones) just like society has for old things (like baseball and cars).


> The aircraft risk is almost entirely mitigated by not flying your drone anywhere near low-flying aircraft.

The problem here is that any half-decent consumer grade drone has a range of a few kilometres and an operational ceiling of several hundred feet. You can't rely on 'just flying it sensibly' when a software bug could send it anywhere within the hardware's limits.

The risk of this causing serious harm is very small and the hyperventilation induced by it in some of the community is overblown, but it is there.


> range of a few kilometres and an operational ceiling of several hundred feet

The ceiling altitude is a software limit, which is applied relative to the take-off altitude. The physical limit of, e.g., a Mavic Pro is somewhere around 5km, where the air desity gets too low.

If you take off on 2km mountain and fly straight, the software ceiling still applies to the take-off height, so you can easily reach an airspace where you should not be (to my knowledge).


You might be at an altitude above mean sea level that _can_ be covered by different airspace rules, but terrain is scary to aircraft, and safety altitudes around it tend to be generous.

If you're on a tall hill that would otherwise infringe on airspace you shouldn't fly in, chances are the safety altitude for that region is still going to be greater than the paper limit for if you were on plains at MSL.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lowest_safe_altitude


Yeah, I was being conservative with the height. A low end drone can do hundreds of feet, a high end one can do much more.

As for height, it's measured relative to takeoff altitude I believe. So you can take off, fly off a cliff, and still be legal.


TBH, I think your comment mischaracterizes the OP and is really unfair to him. He didn't say that he doesn't know how a 4 lb drone at 100 feet could put someone's life in danger. They can do that at 5 feet if your reckless enough. Rather, he said that he doesn't understand how this risk translates to a need to have the FAA be the regulatory body involved with similar rules to the point of requiring licensing.

I've flown a few quadcopters and I tend to agree with him. There are real dangers, but they aren't materially greater than lots of other things that we choose not to spend my tax money regulating. I'd rather we not waste my money on regulating 4lb drones at 100 feet either.


Certainly possible; I'll let the OP address how much I've mischaracterized, but I've read the first statement as "Explain to me how this is SO dangerous that we need to regulate/do something about it", and I've made a point that other things which are in that danger category (for example, cars) are in fact regulated and licensed.

I feel it is more likely that the OP and yourself, have a different categorization of the danger of drones than I do. If the claims are there are other activities that dangerous which we don't regulate, please offer an example. A priori, it is likely we may disagree if they're in the same category of risk or not :-/

I think drones are close to the level of dangers of cars. I would be curious which other vehicles of that speed and potential for danger a person can control that are not regulated or licensed.

If the question is why FAA specifically, I guess it makes sense to me that agency in charge of flying things would be the one; may not make same intuitive sense to others.

(for the record, if you say "electric scooter", I think those should be licensed like regular scooters as well :)

Note that I've flown a $40 hand-sized drone, a $100 1-lb foot-sized drone, and a Mavic Air; so my experience is limited - but I really feel Mavic Air can easily kill a person with a moment's slip of attention, and it's ridiculous I'm allowed to just woosh with it around right now :S. I would personally _want_ to take a class, learn, and be licensed and demonstrate that I'm responsible. I think insurance would be a reasonable requirement as well, while we're at it... unpopular opinion I'm sure :)


> I think drones are close to the level of dangers of cars.

prosumer level drones are certainly a lot more dangerous than people who have only seen $40 toys would imagine, but i have to say this is a bit of a stretch. the mavic air you mention has a top speed of ~42 mph (although you won't find them traveling that fast for long) and weighs just under a pound. the maximum kinetic energy delivered is within a factor of two of a high school pitcher's fastball. the props can definitely cut you up bad, but it's not going to kill you unless it happens to hit a critical artery. this particular drone also happens to cost $800, fairly easy for a seriously interested professional to come up with, but most people are not buying a drone like this unless they plan to skip this generation of iphones. finally, a major reason why air travel is much safer than cars is that the airspace is actually quite sparse; there's just not that much stuff to run into if you're not near a major airport. when you consider all these factors together, it's not surprising that i can only find a handful of incidents where a bystander was seriously injured by a drone over the last 5 years, despite the fact that there are more unmanned than manned aerial vehicles in the US!

i don't know how you're going to compare this to a >3000 pound vehicle that routinely travels through densely populated areas at 30mph. the electric scooter would be a better comparison imo.

since i've already written a wall of text, i will say that i don't necessarily mind paying $200 and taking a course one time to be able to fly my drone with relative freedom. what i mind is having to call all 10 helipads (which may not even be operational) within 5 miles of me, one by one, every time i want to fly my drone 5 feet off the ground in my backyard.


>>(for the record, if you say "electric scooter", I think those should be licensed like regular scooters as well :)

and that is likely where we will continue to disagree

You seem to have the belief that the default position should be regulation and people need to justify where there should not be regulation

Where I believe in freedom and you believe in regulation... This is a fundamental difference

I do not believe electric scooters should be regulated, I do not believe alot of things that are regulated today should be regulated

and I do not believe the government should regulate what I choose to fly for recreation on my own property, thus why I believe I should have completely control from ground level to 100ft.


"if I need to register and license my car, motorcycle, boat, plane, etc..."

I highly doubt you need to take an RC car to your DMV and get it registered. You almost certainly don't have to do so even for some manned coneyances (bicycles, electric bicycles in a growing number of jurisdictions, vehicles never intended to be used on public roads, etc.).

Trying to compare a toy/hobbyist drone or RC plane to a full-blown car (let alone aircraft) in terms of responsibility and registration requirements is patently absurd.


> vehicles never intended to be used on public roads

Presumably you wouldn't have to register your drone if you never intended to fly it in the public airspace. Indoors in your own facility? Have at it.


I think part of my concern is that this sort of regulation implies there's no such thing as private airspace, which means that even something as relatively-harmless as putting up a shed is a "danger" to aircraft and subject to FAA regulations by this exact same logic. Oh, and if you want to fly a kite you can, well, go fly a kite.

Realistically, trying to enforce control of airspace below 100ft over private property is going to be a fool's errand at best. That's space that ought to be fair game for unregistered aircraft (at that point I'd hardly call them "aircraft" anyway).


There IS private airspace indoors (it is why drone races typically happen in warehouses or stadiums). Outdoors, there is no private airspace so much as there is Class G airspace which is all airspace under 1200ft as long as you are out of range of any landing strips/airports, or under 700AGL if you are near certain larger airports. It is not legal to fly any manned aircraft in class g unless either transiting through to land/takeoff, or if you have clearance. However, it happens fairly often (just look at sightseeing helicopters as an example). A common problem with drone hobbyists is that they don't know anything about commercial airspace. Much of the concern has been about flying near airports where transiting low-altitude space is necessary. If drone operators had been assiduous in avoiding those areas (as RC aircraft operators have been) then this would be less of a concern.

I agree though, that there is very little possibility of enforcing low altitude airspace rules, unless they force some kind of software/transponder system into use. even then, the home-built drones are just too easy to make to guarantee it.


Yeah, the zero foot drone limit 'near' airports is just ridiculous.

Exactly. It's a step away from registering paper airplanes.

I can't, but here's the kicker...neither can you. In this business, you're not allowed to presume safety. Unless you've been trained to understand the ramifications on airspace, you really don't know. That's not how a safety first culture works. You don't make a change to a business critical production system without going through change control...why is it so absurd to consider registering your activity in airspace before you do it? The only reason I can think of is that it's inconvenient for you, which sucks but that's not good enough.

Stats is on his side. He CAN assume it is safe, since given how many are in the air, and how few problems we have, in his scenario we can assume it is safe unless shown otherwise.

I am for the regulation, but, I am also against people not using basic stats.

Riding a pair of rollerskates can be dangerous to the people around you, but, you wouldn't force people to licence to do that right?

You can hurt someone if they get a paper aircraft in the eye, but you don't licence them either.

It has to be on the basis of how likely you are to get problems, and how dangerous those problems are going to be. Saying "I can (or can't in this case) conceive of a situation where this could be a problem" isn't a high enough bar.

For larger drones, hell yeah you will need licencing, and flying near aircraft, then again, yes.

But this case? In this case, he has stats on his side.


As luck would have it, I have a degree in statistics and I'm a trained statistician! So let's talk about stats.

Let's assume he's 99.99%[0] safe to fly his drone in this situation. That means 1 in 10,000 drone flights are not. That's actually not a great safety margin when you consider how often this is done a day. There are 2.5 million drones in operation at the moment.

You're overemphasizing the individual case here and not the population at large. There's actually a formal name for this type of statistical fallacy, though I've forgotten it. There's TED talks about it and everything.

But you can probably get better than 99.99% assurance of safety here...and you do that by registering your intent with people who assess safety for a living.

[0] this is, of course, a ludicrous statistic. It's illustrating the absurdity of thinking that just because something is unlikely doesn't mean it won't happen. In this case, when it happens people can get seriously or fatally hurt.


I'm curious where you are getting your 99.99% figure, and why you thought that is a would be a safe assumption to make your point out of. Do "trained statisticians" frequently assume with data?

If you can provide evidence that drones are 99.99% safe in the aforementioned "this situation", I will be happy to recant my retort. Otherwise, please avoid strawman arguments.

As for @myrryrs argument. I believe the sentiment is along the lines of "don't let perfect be the enemy of good" - which I am in favor of. Blanket rules that disallow amateur drone usage in relatively safe situations are overkill. General safety rules that urge drone users to stay away from airports - probably a good idea. If my intent is to fly my drone around in the woods while I go mountain biking, why should I be required to tell anyone?

Let us add regulation where regulation is needed - not throw it around like a panacea whenever something unpleasant happens.


99.99% is a wild assumption merely to illustrate the fallacy in thinking that just because something is unlikely doesn't mean it won't happen.

And I'm all for "don't let perfect be the enemy of good" in many situations...but none of them are where people die if mistakes happen.


Thought experiments are useful, but the post you were replying to was essentially saying "show me the data," and no real data were shown.

And yet, you eat food prepared by others, take buses, play sports, swim, step foot on a boat, cross streets.

(I am only guessing you do these things, most people do)

ALL of these are where people die if mistakes happen.

It just comes down to risks.

Again, I actually think that a licencing situation for larger drones would be a good idea, I think bans near airports is good. I just hate some of the arguments people use to get there.


I'm curious if you've flown a modern consumer drone recently? Something like a Phantom or a Mavic.

I have and I would trust a reasonably intelligent person who is into the hobby to handle them with care and educate themselves on the proper regulation and procedures (and other details like caring for LiPO batteries). I don't know if I'd trust the average person with the hobby.

I'm not claiming that we need extremely strict regulation, but I can see why people would want to over-index on more regulation.

I've seen people here compare drones to boats, cars, etc. I feel like that's a bit of a false equivalency.


Mistakes happen all the time with drones yet no one has died. RC helicopters? They have definitely killed people, but no one is concerned about those...

The FAA is interested because the MSM news published so many salacious articles about how big bad and scary drones were and those stories got clicks.

Drones were/are new and budding technology and they can be somewhat autonomous which scares the public. People’s lack of understanding about the programming and the sensors used coupled with the addition of a camera made this yet another very a un-newsworthy clickbait scandal.

I used to build program and fly high powered drones but the media made the political environment nearly intolerable. Between the public’s reaction and the politician’s growing interest, I stopped building and flying.

As a sidenote, when I was a kid I flew “large” 5’ rockets. They used slow burn explosives to produce fire. Now there is the potential for some real damage. No one cared


the FAA has been intensely interested and collaborative with the drone industry for YEARS. since 2015 at least when I saw people from the FAA at commercial drone conferences talking about the importance of how drones would be operated safely. They first had commercial exemptions in section 333 and then formally passed Part 107 in order to address the needs of commercial operators in 2016. To say that the FAA is "only interested because of the mainstream media" is pretty inaccurate. they've been interested for YEARS.

You tell me this like it’s news. I had individual FAA drone permits in 2016. I was following developments closely it was a little before then that the public started to freak out with all the news coverage of mostly a few phantom owners doing stupid things. Yes this was a MSM created event starting back in 2014 and FAAs concern grew from that. There were loud public demands for the FAA to regulate drones based on fears one would collide with a plane. Those fears were created and nurtured by the MSM

You made a fake argument just to prove a point irrelevant to what anyone was saying? Nobody said that semi-unlikely implied it won't happen...

ok, lets talk stats.

Lets NOT assume he is 99.99% safe.

Lets look at the 825,000 drones sold in one year, and estimate it from the number of problems that they had with those.

We don't just pick a number when we have a perfectly good sample to work with.

I AM looking at the population at large.

If there are There are 2.5 million drones in operation at the moment, which I am happy to agree to, and we are not seeing many problems, how much of a sample do you need?


99.99% is a wild assumption merely to illustrate a fallacy. If you want better probabilities, I have none, since so much is dependent on external factors. Applying a blanket probability to "how safe is it to fly a drone" is meaningless.

But almost 2000 drone incidents were reported in 2017 alone. For airplanes in that same time, unless I'm wildly misreading the FAA website, is...7. That's isn't quite apples to apples since the criteria for inclusion in each as an incident is different, but this is HN and not an FAA study. Point still being that even considering how unlikely something seems you need to compare it to the base rate.


After reading this thread, i thought of a sort of obvious solution.

Require some amount of liability insurance.

There are all sorts of complex regulations that could be put in place, but this is an easy, low effort one.


There is no regulation requiring private pilots obtain insurance. Such a requirement comes from the bank whose loan made it possible to acquire said plane; and most any airport with hangars will require evidence of it. I'm not sure what buying insurance does. It certainly provides no standardization of rules or training.

Have you read any FARs? There are FARs for flying kites and ultralights. What about any of that do you think is so complicated? Feel free to use a regulation in FAR 91 as an example for something onerous that insurance can obviate. One of my favorite regulations in these UAV conversations is:

§ 91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General. Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes: (a)Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

There is no reason at all why a drone should ever hurt someone, other than sheer incompetency and lack of imagination. Now where are you going to get that imagination? And how are you going to obtain competency? Insurance doesn't get you either of those things.


Are you assuming that the insurance industry will sufficiently regulate safety to achieve a safe overall outcome? (Note that this is in significant parts true today in the manned, piston-engine aircraft world.)

Or just suggesting insurance so that the injured get paid?


I’m suggesting it’s a very lightweight regulation. We are in this weird time, where actual safety is hard to ascertain.

The safest solution is to simply ban drones. But, there might be some utility there. Building up a history of risk would be super helpful. Some things are obvious. A six ounce toy is less dangerous than a 12 rotor monster. But that toy can still cause problems when it’s floating over the freeway.

I think insurance would create a data collection environment that could drive more realistic, useful regulations.

FWIW, movie studios generally require 5 million liability for drone shots. It’s pretty cheap to purchase, but those pilots are professional. Expanding to amateurs is complicated. Insurance gives some visibility into that complexity.


And you are using the internet statistics fallacy in an argument (did you know that 42.42% of statistics are made up on the spot?).

Considering the # of drones in operation at the moment, we can assume a MUCH lower risk to manned aviation assets than .01%. I'm sure that regulations aren't being driven by statistics (unfortunately, with things that get lots of attention, they rarely are).


You’re thinking of the fallacy of composition.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_composition


As a pilot of both full-sized aircraft and quadcopters, I think I can explain how 100 feet could potentially be a danger. Directly underneath the approach path of a runway that is less than a few hundred feet away might be bad.

Otherwise, there isn't a material impact. Noone should be flying their airplane within 100 feet of his house (by regulation).

I don't mean to call you out specifically, but this is really the problem with our regulatory environment. Lots of people involved with regulation actually have remarkably little understanding of the cost and benefits associated with the regulations that they advocate. I wish that I could go into more detail, but I've seen some truly crazy things being decided by people who literally had no idea of the consequences of their actions or how people in their field actually behaved.


You should write the Uniform Law Commission to enact private property rights up to 200’. [1] They are already considering this. You should have the right to fly a drone just over your property the same way you could drive an unregistered, non-street-legal vehicle on your property. You can’t go on public roads (or over public property or other peoples property), but you should have rights over your own property.

[1] https://www.unmannedairspace.info/uncategorized/ulc-proposes...


That proposal appears to only create additional restrictions: operating a drone under 200' without the permission of the property owner would be considered "aerial trespass". There was nothing in the article about guaranteeing the right to fly drones up to 200' over your own property. One presumes that under this proposal you would need the permission of both the property owner and the FAA.

By establishing property rights you make a stronger case for the right to fly a drone on your property. Certainly the FAA will have a safety say, but property rights will also be important. In the end, much of this may be decided by the courts.

It's not that the drone is the problem, it's what else is up there. Just yesterday I had 2 f-16s fly over my apartment [0]. Their height, by my estimate, was about 500 ft. Could I be wrong about the height? Sure, but I could see them quite clearly and hear them very well. Since I live near an AFB, I'm used to low bypass jets overhead. But yesterday was different, they were easily 5x as low as they should have been. Heck, they commonly fly low over games and that's as good a place to fly a drone as ever. The risk of an f-16 coming down near a stadium event is very very low, yes, but not a chance worth taking.

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/Denver/comments/9m8b6s/what_was_wit...


if 2 f-16s actually flew 500 ft over your house there was almost certainly a temporary flight restriction over the area, which is very easy to look up. it's also already illegal to fly anything anywhere near a large stadium during a game.

the thing that frustrates me about this debate is that section 336 already had a pretty strict (and mostly reasonable, imo) set of rules for flying drones with severe penalties attached (up to $250k fine and possible jail time). idk why an informed person would call for stricter rules instead of just having the FAA enforce the ones that were already on the books.


> it's also already illegal to fly anything anywhere near a large stadium during a game.

The so-called stadium TFR can be read here: http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_7_4319.html

In particular, it has exceptions for:

A) The aircraft operation has been authorized by ATC for operational or safety purposes, including authorization of flights specifically arriving at or departing from an airport designated by ATC using standard ATC procedures and routes; B) the aircraft operation is being conducted for operational, safety, or security purposes supporting the qualifying event, and is authorized by an airspace security waiver approved by the FAA; C) the aircraft operation is enabling broadcast coverage for the broadcast rights holder for the qualifying event, and is authorized by an airspace security waiver approved by the faa; D) the aircraft operation has been authorized by ATC for national security, homeland security, law enforcement, or air ambulance purposes;

I use exception A fairly regularly. I can imagine a flight of 2 Vipers would fall under exception B (if an opening ceremony flyover) or D (more likely for a transit operation).


That's easy, here's what happens when a drone strikes an airplane wing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QH0V7kp-xg0

As discussed when this was on the front page, a static airplane wing reacts differently to an active airplane wing, which is forcing air out of the way around it. Also airplanes don't generally fly at 100ft, unless you are at an airport.

I agree that drones should be heavily regulated, but this doesn't seem like the argument as to why.


um, no it wasn't. Any airflow near the boundary layer at that speed amounts to a rounding error in the test. The range of approach paths that result in significant damage would still be the same. Not only does this damage the wing, but you're also putting a large chunk of damaged lipo battery in close proximity to the fuel tanks. Not something I hope to ever encounter.

We nearly got to see the result with a live rotor recently (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBRI0Q1fq7s), which I'm glad only turned into a near miss.

I have a number of multicopters, and I fly small aircraft; I don't want to see either side regulated out of existence.


First: Going in I understand the impact a drone could have on a given aircraft wing if it were to impact. I also understand how that compares to a bird or at higher speeds as I've watched the linked video. I learned a lot I didn't know from it.

Now, honest question from someone outside the hobby who sees good arguments and reasons on both sides and doesn't seem to be swayed to one side or the other yet.

How many people flying drones, would you estimate, on a given day are flying their crafts within airspace that would be restricted for them, generally, if they were to be registered and request use of their regular airspace -- on a given day?

Is that even possible for anyone to guess? Am I asking a question that's unreasonable and too difficult to ask? That's just something that I think would give me and others on the outside some sort of idea how this would actually impact people wanting to fly drones.

I also realize this is being put in place to prevent an accident before it happens. That's obviously unneeded (any accident) and I'm sure no hobbyist or anyone for that matter is trying to get their drones tangled with an anything in the air, let alone an airplane.


I have no idea what the number would be, and probably no one else does either. I don't think the real issue is the total numbers though, it's always the outliers that are the problem -- as someone below stated: "jerks ruin everything".

The vast majority of hobbyists are thoughtful and considerate. RC aircraft have existed for a long time with few problems, with many of those aircraft being considerably larger, faster and higher flying.

It's the few users that don't consider the ramifications of their actions, like in the video I posted, which can ruin it for everyone.


How do you know an airplane won't fly at 100 feet over your backyard?

I actually get some nice airshows at my house: their is a field across the street, and so one a year the farmer flys in some fungicide. He flys at ~1 meter over the corn, then at the end he climbs just enough to get over the power lines and my house, turns around in my backyard and returns for the next pass.

I have a friend who travels the country taking pictures of houses, and then going door-to-door trying to sell them. I'm not sure how low he flies, but this job is best done from low.


"How do you know an airplane won't fly at 100 feet over your backyard?"

If an airplane is flying that low in a place that's not in close proximity to an airport, then something has already gone horribly horribly wrong and the existence or nonexistence of tiny propeller-powered aircraft no more (or less) dangerous than a bird is hardly going to be a factor.

If it is in close proximity to an airport, then there are already rules restricting the use of RC aircraft within certain radii of airports, so further regulation is redundant. Also, given - again - the existence of winged feathered creatures, the risk does not go away (and in fact is probably not even significantly decreased).


>>How do you know an airplane won't fly at 100 feet over your backyard?

because it should be illegal for them to do so, and be a violation of my property rights as I should have ownership interest and control of this airspace

There is already some legal precedent for upto 83 Feet, the FAA insist they control everything from 1 nanometer above my grass, the courts disagree but the FAA generally does not advance any cases below 100 ft because they are scared shitless of getting more court precedents establishing property owners control the airspace around their property


I think your comment makes a lot of sense and makes some good points. Sorry you were downvoted. HN is very pro regulation of drones. I never understood why.

People often overreact to new things. They did it with books, televisions, cars, etc. Maybe unease about change?

You'll see people react one way to the annoying sound of a nearby drone but not bat an eyelid when it's a helicopter (let's say it's a sightseeing helicopter rather than rescue chopper) or a lone person on jetski terrorising an otherwise quiet harbour.

I have a friend who will say "I hate drones, I just don't like them" with no real explanation. Nothing about the sound or risk. No bad history with them. I'm not discounting the risk or annoying sound, but I firmly believe a non-negligible percentage of people dislike them and then later retrofit an argument.


HN is very pro Regulation.

Pro Liberty content is routinely down voted here


1000ft or 100ft it doesn't matter. You could kill someone operating at 10ft in the wrong place (near a helipad). The standard glidepath flown by jets is 3deg. From the touchdown zone, 100ft covers a 1900ft arc.

All sorts of things could kill people in exactly the right circumstances. A handful of people have probably died after losing control of their vehicle swerving around someone's dog that wandered into the street. Just because something can add the final straw to a situation causing a bad thing to happen doesn't mean the likelihood is high enough to be worth regulation.

Considering how many drones are in operation ans how many accidents haven't happen I think we should err toward no license required under a certain altitude over private property (the same altitude at which you need to put a red light on a structure in that area sounds like a food starting point).


Lots of people have died avoiding animals. Slow down, honk your horn, and keep driving under control.

And yet we don't require licenses in order to have most common pets...

Don't most cities and towns require dog licenses? That seems like a fairly common pet and I know we have to get a license.

I live in one of the most busybody states on the east coast and I've never heard of a city or town that required a license for a pet.

It’s extremely common to require dog licenses. My rural New England town does.

You could kill someone by playing football near a helipad too, should we heavily regulate playing football everywhere too?


Seriously. It's like this phony electronics ban on flights. Eliminating all risks in one are is insane and unreasonable because it's so often to the detriment of everything and everyone else. Next, laser pointers will be outlawed because some idiot might shine them towards a plane. Instead of eliminating RC planes and model rockets for an edge-case that can never happen, maybe the FAA should focus on things that matter like human factors.

And what makes you think that the FAA is not looking into those?

One reason for the electronics ban was evacuation, people starring at laptops are not that quick to get out of a burning plane. Considering that there always cases of people evacuating planes with their handluggage, that seems to have been some reason to it. That is was lifted was fine, it took a while but in the end it was lifted.

Also, every flight incident is thorouighly investigated. there is a reason why investigators are even putting to gather crashed planes in a year-long puzzle. And the decline in flight incidents is proof that this approach is working. The aerospace industry is also one of the most prolific players regarding crew management (as in workload distribution between pilots and increasing situational awareness). Again something entities like the FAA are pushing for.

Finally, the statement that RC planes and model rocket are an edge case that can never happen is, without further details, just a wild statement.

Move fast and break things might work in consumer electronics and social media apps, in industries like aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, nuclear power it can, and did, get people killed.


> Explain to me how my flying a 4 pound drone at a height of 100 ft to take a photo of my home is putting someones life in danger

If someone has to explain this to you, you shouldn't be the person flying a four pound drone at a height of a hundred feet. Seriously, it's not ok.


From an air traffic perspective this is very similar to asking "Why can't I erect a 100 foot unlit unmarked pole in my back yard without having to register my activity?"

There shouldn't be aircraft flying 100 feet above your house but I can think of a ton of scenarios where it could happen, and in most of them running into a drone takes the situation from "dangerous, but not an incident" to "fatal incident."


You can put up to a 200ft tower in your back yard for radio purposes without registration so long as you're at least 4 miles or greater from an airport (closer requires proportionally smaller towers - around 1mile/50ft). https://hamradioschool.com/g1b01-maximum-antenna-structure-h...

But not without a building permit and not without setback requirements.

Those are required in many populated areas. Most of USA would not involve such requirements.

If that drone falls, it will hit the ground at ~55 mph (ignoring wind resistance etc.). I would rather not have a 4 pound object smack into my head at 55 mph just because some parent thought their child could handle it

Are you next to a lake? Are there fire control airplanes reloading? (Yeah, this happened).

Are you next to high tension power lines? Is there a helicopter coming in to do maintenance?

The point is that you don't know, and neither does anybody else unless people are filing and reading flight plans.


Not sure why you're downvoted. Like said elsewhere, jerks ruin everything.

Regularly, multiple times a week across the West US in fire season, are air ops (sometimes large ones) shutdown because people think it's more important for them to get their next YouTube video with their drone than it is for helicopters and even jets to do water and retardant dumps.


OK, you have your drone and fly it over your home. But me and my kid are playing in our backyard. Do I have the right of privacy? And, what if your drone smashes in my head? Unless you own a 10,000 acre ranch...they are legitimate concerns. What we do about it is the question.

> me and my kid are playing in our backyard. Do I have the right of privacy?

you probably have a right not to be filmed for commercial purposes, if at all. however, I don't think you have some fundamental right not to be looked at by people who have line of sight or to ban any equipment that might give them that. even if drones didn't exist, I could fly a plane at a legal height and look at your backyard through a telescope or from a nearby hill.


in addition to the sibling reply,

> Unless you own a 10,000 acre ranch....

this is precisely the point. EVEN if you own a 10,000 acre ranch in the middle of nowhere, the regulations technically prohibit you to fly a small hobbyist aircraft around your own property. Does that sound reasonable?


> as many 9s to the likelihood of success as possible

If that were the actual mission of the FAA, that would be easy to accomplish with near-infinite 9s: Stop flying entirely, ban all flying machines of all types. You'd have zero aviation incidents if there was no aviation.

There are a finite number of 9s that are needed before the cost of adding more safety is detrimental to humanity.

And note that I do work in a field where my work could kill someone if it messes up. I build industrial equipment, typically to ISO 13849 PLd or PLe standards - that's 7 nines of probability that there will be no dangerous failure in any given hour, which requires reliable components, fault sensing/fault tolerant safety controllers, and redundant wiring .

I could make equipment I produce more safe, if that was my only goal. For example, each E-stop button has two contacts and two pairs of wires in parallel which monitor its state, and this button removes power from the machine by turning off two contactors in series. If any one of these components should fail - a contact on the E-stop gets shorted out, or a contactor gets welded closed - the system will detect this and remove energy from the system. I could, in theory, make this "more safe" with three pairs of wires and three contactors in series. But while I've had to fight hard against those who try to reduce the safety level in favor of production efficiency, I've never tried to add a third set of redundant contacts.

In the end, an operator standing next to the E-stop button and supplying one of my robots outside the safety gate and light curtain means that there are 6 guys who are not using high-power hand tools to do what the robot is doing. Adding excessive 9s to this system means not that people are safer, instead there's less automation and the world is worse off.

A simple registration process, knowledge test, and inexpensive transponders on RC aircraft would make the world a better place. Requiring hundreds of hours of training and certification, and adding prohibitively expensive transponders, would kill off RC aviation. I want you to fly in a plane safely. That's harder to do if your pilot didn't grow up at the model airfield.


Disclaimer: I'm a licensed private pilot and have a registered drone.

I can sum this up simply: jerks ruin everything. Drones were unregulated and would remain so, except for people being jerks.

Pilots have areas they can't fly below a certain altitude because the noise would rile up wildlife, like flocks of birds; jerk drone pilots, oblivious to this, started zipping through those areas and national parks, scaring up the wildlife (and annoying people), which led to them being banned around national monuments and parks.

Drones have also interfered with commercial approaches at airports in Class B airports so they became banned around airports, unless permission is granted from the airport. The FAA came out with regs requiring you to register, and you had to make sure you acknowledged that you had to be permission to fly in class B airport, from the airport. Simply stated, it was so that if you were an jerk and your drone crashed, or you injured anyone on the ground they could find you. Seems reasonable to me.

The new regs are just an incremental update. Many flights operate on VFR (Visual Flight Rules), which is basically "see and avoid." Most commercial flights operate in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) where air traffic control system guarantees you separation from other aircraft. Of course, they can't see small drones on radar, so they can't vector you around them or talk to the drone operator. There was a case where a black hawk was struck by a drone last year, requiring an emergency landing. The NTSB ultimately found the guy through the manufacturers serial number, because he his drone never returned.

There have been many, many bad actors using drones to harass neighbors, spy on women, and it's getting ridiculous. When a licensed pilot has an accident, they know the NTSB and FAA will investigate. You file a safety report and own up to any mistakes, or it will be very bad. The NTSB is very thorough and is primarily interested in keeping future accidents from happening. However, drone pilots run away abandoning their hardware.

I think the next iteration will be drones required to have transponders, so air traffic control can see them, and a pilot who has TCAS can see them also. This just means they will be become more expensive, and over time, hopefully transponders and ancillary avionics will become cheaper on aircraft as these companies push into general aviation.


As someone who just bought their first drone, registered under section 336 and has been following the rules (including calling the hospital heliport since their five-mile radius covers my house and every public park nearby) I really can't say I'm shocked that this has happened.

My county has even gone so far as to pass an extremely onerous ordinance requiring drone operators get a sign off from every person whose property you may film from a UAS because irresponsible people have made it an issue. I could argue how childish this rule is in the first place, since I can take a picture of somebody's back yard with a high power zoom lens from a hill and be in the clear - but it's the perfect example of the tragedy of the commons that has come from not only lax rules, but people rampantly violating what rules there are without a care.

I just hope the FAA finds a sensible middle ground between the ill-fated section 336 regs and section 107. I'm more than willing to pass a knowledge test, and if I need to buy a $X (where X is $200 or less, hopefully) transponder to affix to my UAS then fine - but can we at least make it easy to do online?


>but it's the perfect example of the tragedy of the commons that has come from not only lax rules, but people rampantly violating what rules there are without a care.

I'm inclined to think this is more a consequence of insufficient enforcement. We have a lot of laws and regulations and are rarely enforced, and thus often violated. That this happens with drones is hardly a surprise.


This is also a case of where people are rampantly violating what rules there are without a care, and, since they don't actually have problems - they don't see the laws as useful.

When you regulate something and cover far far more stuff then you should, you get this behaviour.


The class B restriction is draconian and unnecessary. I live about 4 miles from an airport (Class B). The B zone is 5miles. There has never been an aircraft I have ever seen 400ft over my house, and if they were making a 4 mile <400 ft approach they would have a hell of a lot more to worry about than drones when coming in. (Engine failure with seconds of glide ratio, birds, objects). The "inverted wedding cake" of airspace needs to exclude below 400ft AGL besides areas very close to the airport. You as a pilot must know that besides when you are making your final approach or taking off you are well above 400ft for safety reasons other than unaccounted for aircraft.

You can’t just barge into a system that’s being used to safely transport human beings in a high-risk environment and expect to be allowed to do whatever you want with no forethought, planning, or coordination with other users. The system as it exists protects people from violent and catastrophic death. It would be patently insane to start making big changes to it without thinking very hard about the impact of those changes.

Is it strictly necessary to protect airspace around major airports all the way to the surface for five miles? Probably not. But we have designed a hugely complex, life-critical system around that and many other assumptions, and we can’t just go changing things willy-nilly. This is aviation, not computing. We do not “move fast and break things.” The consequences of getting this wrong aren’t just tweaking some syntax and trying again. The consequences are destruction, death and bereavement.

I’m sure we’ll eventually get to a point where drones are more readily integrated into the system. For now, humans have the priority. And if that means you have to fill out a little web form while the people charged with maintaining the system work through all the implications, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.


I didn't say we should just barge in and make things unsafe. I am saying that we should have a discussion about whether it is needed or not to have <400ft AGL 4.5 miles outside an airport controlled as it is probably unnecessary. The corollary to Silicon Valley startups isn't valid. I wasn't advocating flying craft there anyway and if there's a crash well we'll pivot to a new model.

An example is the FAA has sections of uncontrolled space up to 1000 ft over the Hudson river in NYC, which is in the busiest airspace in the USA in the most densely populated area, dead center in the space of 3 of the largest airports in the world. They decided that in the interest of sightseeing aircraft that they would give an area for this despite midair collisions (one recently), and an actual plane landing in the Hudson once through this space. The area 400ft AGL around airports several miles out is much less treacherous than this and perhaps a discussion should be had to see if it can be given in the interest of drone pilots.


> I am saying that we should have a discussion

Just a tip, but discussions don't usually start with calling the existing, time-proven system "draconian and unnecessary." Air traffic rules exist mostly to keep people alive. If that interferes with your hobby, that's unfortunate, but the priority should be maintaining the safety levels while accommodating the hobby as much as reasonably possible, not establishing some kind of equality between manned flight and hobbyists.

It's also worth noting that R/C pilots had a high enough barrier to entry that they generally policed themselves pretty well. Now that anyone can buy and operate something that can be hazardous to manned aircraft, things have changed significantly. The system needs to account for that level of inexperience and disregard.

> If people die well we'll pivot to a new model.

I reworded that to better reflect reality.

Current airspace requirements–politically-motivated and misguided tho they may be at times–are mostly written in blood. You'll find most aviators have a healthy appetite for the risk of aviation, but at the same time generally won't be interested in taking a "let's tinker with it and pivot after people die" approach.


You misinterpreted parent in the second section, quotations around sentence subject for clarity:

>I wasn't advocating "flying craft there anyway and if there's a crash well we'll pivot to a new model".


1) The 400 AGL rule comes from the idea that the FAA administers everything above that line. Below 400 feet isn't considered navigable airspace. The FAA doesn't specify a global minimum altitude for aircraft to fly at (in 14 CFR 91). Instead, they specify building and person/surface vehicle distances and end with the catch-all that you have to be flying high enough to be safe in the event of an engine failure. So, they're creating rules in a manner consistent with their preexisting regulations.

2) The airspace over the Hudson appears to be class E, which is controlled. By definition, only class G airspace is uncontrolled.

3) The actual plane landing on the Hudson was an airliner in the middle of an emergency. Landing on the river was certainly not part of their planned activities for the day. The pilot-in-command is allowed to deviated from the rules to the extent needed by the emergency.

I'm sure the FAA is still hotly debating how drones will be treated, but it's a government organization used to old technology and moves slowly. Silicon valley will run laps around the regulations until the VCs get bored and fund something else.


Having flown the Hudson River Corridor a couple times, calling it uncontrolled is technically correct, but really misleading. There’s a whole mandatory procedure and strict guidelines: https://www.faasafety.gov/files/gslac/courses/content/79/775...

Yes agreed. I am just saying this is an example of the FAA yielding a bit to make things a bit less complicated for those wishing to fly up there. My general argument is giving FAA control of all airspace from the ground up in such a large area is infringing on some valid uses of it without really safety justification. I have yet to see anyone point out why operating a drone below 400ft over a mile from an airport is clearly unsafe to air traffic, and actually air traffic operating in this zone is unsafe to people on the ground.

So far the comments from very knowledgeable people seem to say well a plane could fly in there in some exceptional circumstances and then could happen to encounter a drone that is operating in visual range under 400 feet and something could possibly happen. This is also considering that the sky is filled with birds many larger than drones.


Personally I struggle everytime in discussions covering a broad, general subject and there specific counter examples popping up all around you without any deep understanding of that particular example. In that regard, the Hudson river.

SO, the Hudson area is not as heavily regulated as it should be following standard procedure. There is however some sort of regulation to it and it is, I assume, monitored. Everything else would just be plain suicide. One can safely assume that the FAA came up with that perticular piece of regulation after putting some thought into it. Pretty much the same approach they are taking with drones.

I am not a software engineer, therefor I am not commenting on software posts. Honest questions are always fine and welcome, but argueing against the FAA without any deeper knowledge of how air travel works is getting us nowhere.

FInally, the plane that landed on the Hudson had an issue with birds, didn't it? Only that you cannto do anything against birds, dornes are a different thing.


Simpler rules are easier to understand and enforce. Further, airspace needs to be sized for both emergencies and human error.

Class B airspace is already a Cone: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airspace_class_(United_States)... But, it's a cone people can understand without needing to know anything about the local airport which makes it very conservative.


Yes I am not disagreeing with that. I am saying the bottom of the cone has to be more "cone" shaped. More resolution. Why not make it forbidden without authorization to fly large FAA regulated craft anywhere outside say a half mile radius of a runway? Because operating a craft that low is not very safe anyway outside of landing and taking off. Saying the FAA controls ALL airspace from the ground up for an area of a 5 mile radius is not necessary for safe large aircraft operation. In fact I wouldn't want large passenger jets flying <400ft in any densely populated area outside of landing and taking off as it is not safe.

I would highly recommend a Discovery of Flight experience at your local airfield. They're usually free, and I think it will help you realize that there are a lot of things you aren't accounting for. Aviation isn't nearly as tidy an environment as you think it is, and safety margins need to be big. The number of protocols that have been instituted because of statistically insignificant events is one of the reasons aviation is as safe as it is.

From the air, five miles is quite close to an airfield. There's a significant amount of activity in all directions of an airfield that near to it–you have straight-in pattern entries, overhead pattern entries, diagonal pattern entries, base pattern entries, downwind pattern entries, teardrop pattern entries, aircraft transiting the airspace, helicopters running one traffic pattern, single engine aircraft running another, multi-engine aircraft another, jets another, and sometimes heavies yet another, with everyone else avoiding all the wake turbulence they produce.

All of this happens mostly within 5-10 miles of the field. Not everyone has the same training and experience, there are students and instructors in the mix, equipment failures happen, radar coverage is far from perfect, meteorological and geographic factors often crowd an otherwise-open airspace so everyone's now operating in a greatly reduced footprint, and so on.

All this is further compounded by go-arounds (when an aircraft can't make an approach for whatever reason, either called by a pilot or a controller), which regularly throw the traffic around a field into a state of fairly instant disarray, as controllers vector aircraft rapidly away from each other to try to prevent any collisions from occurring.

If an emergency is declared the airspace may have an aircraft operating anywhere above ground level they deem necessary

This complexity is enough to keep you busy when everyone's hearing everyone, and being coordinated by an adept controller. Drone operators aren't listening to controllers when they operate, don't have great vantage point of the airspace, and would know almost nothing of what's happening above while they're flying.

Beyond that, I can think of several situations where a pilot might find the safest course of action is to bolt from an airfield at <1,000 feet AGL for a few miles. It's probably not an everyday occurrence at any particular airfield, but it's happened to me multiple times (and I'm far from a high-time pilot) and it probably happens daily, multiple times, somewhere in the FAA's jurisdiction.

Also, consider:

91.119 Minimum safe altitudes; general

Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes;

(a) ·Anywhere. ·An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

(b) ·Over congested areas. ·Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2.000 feet of the aircraft.

(c) ·Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In that case, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

(d) ·Helicopters. ·Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed In paragraph (b) or (c) of this section if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface. In addition, each person operating a helicopter shall comply with routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the Administrator.

·Helicopter operations may be conducted below the minimum altitudes set for fixed-wing aircraft. The reason? The helicopter's unique operating characteristics, the most important of which is its ability to execute pinpoint emergency landings during power failure. Further, the helicopter's increased use by law enforcement and emergency medical service agencies requires added flexibility in the application of many FAA provisions.

---

Plenty of drone activity happens over water, unpopulated areas, sparsely populated areas, etc.

Lastly, not all passenger aircraft are large jets.

Again, I can't recommend getting an hour or two of flying experience enough. HN commenters tend to have a high level of expertise within their respective domains, and perhaps as a result are almost famously prone to oversimplifying subjects outside of their domain expertise. It seems like every time an aviation-related thread comes up it usually highlights that tendency wonderfully.


I've flown a plane a few times before with an instructor, so I am not commenting completely out of ignorance. I am not claiming to be an expert. I also don't own a drone. I am also interested in getting a pilot's license.

I also didn't claim that all passenger craft were large jets, didn't claim that planes would NEVER have to enter space below 400ft AGL miles from an airport. In fact a single engine plane flying that low is even more dangerous as it has less redundancy. I've flown in them. Nothing is without risk and someone flying in a low approach like that has plenty of risk besides drones which are more significant than drones. Also we aren't talking about < 1000ft AGL, we are talking 400 which is a tremendous difference. Yes a controller can do a lot to clear airspace but they aren't going to clear wildlife, trees, and other structures which are a risk at that level or lower much greater than 2lb drones.


> From the air, five miles is quite close to an airfield.

But realize that this is not only a rule at 400 feet. It's a rule at 100 feet, at 40 feet, at 10 feet, at 4 feet.

Surely you can agree that there is a certain height where it's safe to fly drones when there is an airport less than 5 miles but more than line of sight away. And surely you can agree that such a height is not zero feet.


It's not 'Airports' it's class B airspace which is a very short list. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Class_B_airports_in_th... Only ~1/2 of states even have one, and most of those have just the 1.

Being limited to ~99.99% of the US is hardly a major issue for drone operators. Further, people are very poor at judging altitude consistently, and it's much easier to enforce 'don't' than try and enforce only up to 100 feet or something.


Class C and D airspace have the same inner zone. It's easier to get permission but you're still having to get permission[1] to fly.

[1] The rules are confusing here but it looks like any airport can tell you not to fly if they want to.


Class D is generally though not always 4 nautical miles not 5, which is a 20% smaller area.

Now, if you want more permissive rules around class D airspace that's IMO very reasonable. But, talking about class B as any airport is extremely misleading.

PS: Class C is again not that long a list, and still represents high traffic areas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Class_C_airports_in_th....


I can't agree to the last paragraph enough.

A normal ILS approach is about 300 ft/mile. Many airports have runways that are a couple of miles long, so the center of the Class B could be roughly as much as 1.5 miles from the touchdown point. At your distance, a nominal approach would be at 750 feet. At a mile closer, a nominal approach would be 450 feet.

If the pilot is a little low on the glideslope, you're a little closer to the airport than you think, and your drone is a little higher than you think, you've got a collision. Now, these are all worst case deviations, and it might make sense for the FAA to draw the lines more closely, orient them with the actual approach paths, and perhaps have a lower altitude restriction (maybe 150 feet or so) close to an airport. As it is though, the 5 mile ring is a pretty reasonable, if conservative choice given the potential consequences of a drone hitting an aircraft on takeoff or landing.


With DJI, at least, it’s not easy for your drone to be “higher than you think”.

Phantom 3, Phantom 4, Mavic, all track within a foot or so of the designated coordinates in 3D space.

Default settings have an altitude cap, no matter your momentum, you can’t accidentally or intentionally cross the cap. You have to go into configuration settings to override the cap and set manually to go any higher.

Modern models also come with awareness of FAA zones.


I agree. Before a recent move, I flew a model airplane and “large” drone about a half mile from a regional airport (but not in the approach path). I called them up, explained to them what and where I was flying, and they basically told me it would be fine to do whenever as long as I kept an eye out for any low flying planes.

There are a number of assumptions missing in this.

Emergency approaches are by their very nature often well below glide slope.

Perhaps more statistically relevant is that not everyone's altimeters always function correctly, are set to the correct airfield's most recent numbers, that in the potentially 50+ minutes since the last ATIS update the ambient pressure hasn't changed significantly, and lastly that all pilots–drone pilots included–are doing what they're supposed to and leaving sufficient margins.

Shoot enough approaches and you will likely realize that small, potentially dangerous objects piloted by untrained, unregulated, unmonitored, non-communicating pilots at 400' could quickly become a problem for you more readily than it appears from the ground.

Take off on a high-density-altitude day in an underpowered aircraft and you'll also appreciate the additional headroom.

To say nothing of the fact that I've owned drones that under LoS conditions just continue the last input received, which with inexperienced or irresponsible operators would be an input to climb.


I think the zones are purposefully big for emergency situation.

Yeah but this is _always_ the reason that any industry gives for criminalizing competition. There's never any justification for the entirety of the thing being done, just a list of the most egregious problems (as you have listed here) and then everything else just gets lumped in and hand-waved away with "you can ask for an exception and/or pay money in fees".

An engineer wants to push some code live to a large, production software project worked on by hundreds of engineers. It hasn't been peer reviewed, tested or evaluated in any way except by the engineer. It isn't a mission critical update, but he doesn't seem to think it'll be a problem.

"No way!" you say, without hesitation, because it's a rightly stupid thing to do. It's a pointless risk. That's always how bad stories start. The engineer points out the bad stories are just a list of the most egregious problems. You wouldn't even let the engineer ask for an exception or pay a fee to do it. He then says the only reason you're doing this is to hold back his career.

And that's just for software where a mistake doesn't mean someone dies. Tell me again how this is about "criminalizing competition" because that rings a little hollow.


This is not a good analogy. You just pointed out a real problem and then said we should prevent it. I said these real problems are used to justify drastic expansions of those rules to protect incumbents via the legal process. The situation does not require an analogy to understand.

A group of people who represent the status quo (large drone makers and currently operating commercial drone operators) are attempting to erect barriers to entry (licenses/exceptions) that will attach civil and potentially criminal penalties to the same behavior they engaged in (license/exception-free operation) to become successful. That is literally the definition of "criminalizing competition".

If you would like another example of this exact behavior without needing an analogy, see the fact that it is currently illegal in many US states to be a hairstylist without applying for a license (with a fee) and meeting minimum education requirements (with a fee)... _to cut hair_.


This is a bad example.

825,000 drones were sold in the U.S. in 2016 alone.

If you had 825,000 developers, who on many days did commits and didn't have any real issues, you may think differently.

I again, am pro regulation, but this is a _terrible_ argument.


> didn't have any real issues

Citation needed. If you want better arguments, you merely need read the rest of this thread. I wasn't arguing pro regulation. I was arguing how silly it sounds when someone calls this a move to "criminalize competition."


i'd say it's a pretty reasonable inference from the article, which mentions two interested parties: the The Commercial Drone Alliance (commercial advocate), which supports the repeal, and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (hobbyist organization), which opposes it. now why is it that these two orgs which are both interested in drones have such different stances?

You can request a waiver from the FAA, right now. It is free and good for 90 days. Here is a list of granted waivers: https://www.faa.gov/uas/request_waiver/waivers_granted/

Yep, we have gone from a society that values freedom first, and government must present a case to have that freedom limited in a vary narrow band

To Wholesale regulations of all activity where by you have to seek "permission" from the regulators to do anything, and hope they will grant you a coveted "exception" to their prohibition.

it is sad that people still call that freedom


My experience in America is that the "freedom" is usually a word people use for being able to endanger others, pollute, or otherwise cause external harm without repercussion. In short, it's code for "I don't want to take responsibility for the negative externalities of my actions".

Then you must have very limited experience.

Most of the time "regulators" like the FAA are mainly there to limit the liability of commercial industries, as well as raise barriers to entry ensuring limited competition for those corporations

Why do you think major corporations advocate FOR government regulations of their industries

Why do you think Facebook WANTS the government to regulate them

Why do you think Amazon now WANTS the government to raise minimum wage

Government works for Large Corporations it does not work for the People. People like me, hobbyist that just want to be left in peace to enjoy our lives have are freedom oppressed under the thin guise of "safety" when in reality it is about money...

People like you are naive enough to believe the rhetoric, it is sad people are so willing to give up liberty for the promise safety never understanding that doing so means they lose both


> I can sum this up simply: jerks ruin everything. Drones were unregulated and would remain so, except for people being jerks.

THIS. A THOUSAND TIMES, THIS.

When I first got into flying drones and getting into it as a hobby, I read almost daily about idiots flying it within downtown areas and losing control, only to have them fall out of the sky. Or stories about spying on their next door neighbors, or flying so high they were in the airspace of commercial planes and near misses when a plane was approaching a runway.

I was just counting the days when this would happen. I knew it would happen because the reckless behavior of a few have ruined it for everybody. Having been doing this for almost 5 years, I felt like the FAA has to get involved sooner rather than later with all this stuff going on. I'm frankly surprised it took this long. Clearly they kept giving these people the benefit of the doubt, only to be disappointed time and again.

The Casey Neistat FAA case was clear evidence something had to be done.


That's the problem with jerks. The other problem with jerks is that they don't follow any rules anyway while the good guys get to deal with the added bureaucratic overhead.

How do the rules prevent a jerk from buying a drone (with cash, to remove even the faintest connection to himself) and go fly it near the local approach to film landing planes from air? There's no way to trace it back to you even if the authorities found the serial number from the wreckage.


Laws don't prevent me from murdering my neighbour. But they do give the authorities a hammer that they can use, should I choose to.

yes, but people who violate section 336 were already subject to fines up to $250k and possible jail time. they don't need a bigger hammer to threaten hobbyists with.

A lone drone pilot from the bush can easily avoid that hammer with trivial precautions.

Good post. Small nit:

> Most commercial flights operate in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) where air traffic control system guarantees you separation from other aircraft.

IFR traffic is only separated from other IFR traffic and participating VFR traffic. At FL180 (~18000' MSL) and above-0, it's all IFR, but below FL180, IFR is not separated from non-participating VFR and is still responsible for "see and avoid" when meteorological conditions permit in all airspaces (even above FL180).

0 - Yeah, yeah, above FL600, you could be VFR again... ;)


Since we're nitpicking, ATC also provides separation of all aircraft in Class B airspace. In Class C, they provide separation of IFR aircraft from all other aircraft (VFR-VFR gets advisories).

> I can sum this up simply: jerks ruin everything. Drones were unregulated and would remain so, except for people being jerks.

When were drones ever unregulated? I don’t remember any such time. I remember that before 2016, the legal requirement for drone piloting was to have a pilot’s license, which most people ignored yet scoffed and complained about endlessly. In 2016 they made flying drones less than 55 pounds in class G airspace under 400 feet with line of sight without a pilot’s license or registration legal, but it was not unregulated.

I don’t think that jerks is the main problem here. Use of drones in the last 5 years has skyrocketed. The percentage of jerks could be going down dramatically, and still the accident rates will rise due to the sheer number of people playing with drones. There are many many times more people flying drones now than there were in 2010.

Anyone who’s used a drone more than a handful of times has crashed their drone, or had their drone lose control, or run out of battery mid-flight. Having flown many times and crashed a few, I might be a jerk and not know it, but I’m also 1) lucky I haven’t hurt anyone, and 2) in favor of mandatory registration and some, any, mandatory safety training for drones. Even ignoring FUD about airports and spying neighbors, I still think a little regulation is a good idea.


>>remember that before 2016, the legal requirement for drone piloting was to have a pilot’s license,

This is false, section 336 prohibited the FAA from making such a requirement for Model Aircraft which quad's and other UAV's are.

in 2016 the FAA attempted to impose new regulations on Model Aircraft, these regulations where found to be in-violation of section 336 and where struck down by the courts last year

This new law repeals section 336 stripping Americans of their freedom to fly model aircraft free from government intervention into their hobby


I should have said the legal requirement “according to the FAA”, because before 2016, the FAA wasn’t acknowledging 336 on the FAA.gov web site. That’s the year they decided to clarify that small model aircraft were allowed under 336. 336 was passed in 2012. Between 2012 and 2016, and probably before that, the FAA’s web site stated that UASs fall under their jurisdiction and could be legally flown by licensed pilots. Any commercial drone use at all still requires certification with a remote pilot’s license, which is still being largely ignored & scoffed at by people who want real estate photos and sports videos.

In any case, the point still stands that there was never a time in recent history that drones were unregulated. 336 is a regulation.

> This new law repeals section 336 stripping Americans of their freedom to fly model aircraft free from government intervention into their hobby

We’ve only had a limited, regulated freedom to fly for a short 6 years, and in those six years the drone market has changed to the tune of more than 10x [1]. In the last 6 years, accident rates have grown in proportion to the market size, and more than half the accidents are caused by technical failures [2]. What used to be a relatively inaccessible hobby by a few tens of thousands of people flying gas powered model airplanes, and only in parks because model airplanes require wide open spaces, is now tens of millions of people flying drones than can launch literally anywhere. I never used to see model airplanes flying around tourist destinations, and today I can’t go without seeing one.

If you were flying before 2012, think about the fact that more than 90% of the people flying today have less than 5 years experience, and about half have less than 1 year experience. Also pretty likely is that the majority of drone pilots today are children under 20 years old.

If that doesn’t make you think a small amount of regulation is a good idea, consider that the drone market is still expected to triple or quadruple in the next 5 years, so in short order the majority of drones flown will be piloted by someone who hasn’t flown yet, and has never thought about any of these issues, or about safety, nor ever considered flying some sort of god given right. For both our sakes, I think asking those people to register and do a small amount of safety training is a good idea. While you can, you don’t have to view this as intervention, there are legitimate reasons to regulate hobbies that cause potential harm to others.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/drone-sales-in-us-chart-2017...

[2] https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/drone-statistics/


While I am sure this is the public feel good justification for massive new regulations, it is unlikely to be the actual reason which will be steeped in commercialization of the Hobbyist Airspace.

To remove hobby / amateur flying to make way for the Pizza Delivery and Police Surveillance Drones in that valuable airspace


Remember that pilots (mostly private) make mistakes and kill people, a lot, and they get a lot of goodwill from the authorities and the press for just wearing an uniform. And also they tend to lie on their drone encounters. No actual drone incident has even been reported where the owner of the drone was not violating an obvious rule (either line of sight or zoning), ie the rules don't need to change.

The other thing to consider is that drones are not more dangerous than birds, and they don't fly near airports and they don't form flocks.

Now there will be way more use for small UAV than manned aviation, so one logical thing to do is strictly separate the airspace (400ft- for drones 500ft+ for planes, increase 100ft every 5 years) by preventing manned aircrafts from flying low, in particular on near the coasts, just give them a few dedicated zones for airports and helicopter work, and open most of the rest to unmanned.


What we really need is

0-100 property Owner controlled

100-400 Hobby non-commercial

-400 the FAA does not need to be involved at all

400+ Commercial and this is where the FAA comes in and provides regulations for Commercial UAV and Manned Aircraft to operate in this Commercial Zone

leave us Hobbyist alone.


If a flying drone was as quiet as a flying bird, I would have no problem with them flying around the city where I live. That is not the case, so anywhere not next to a busy road and the drone noise is going to be easily heard and annoying to many people. Over your own property or places where you have permission, fine. Over public or someones else's property, no thank you.

Maybe we could let quite drones (not sure of the dB at ground level that would be acceptable) fly over cities and that would push the development of quieter flying systems.


Why does the FAA need to get involved with any of the stuff you mentioned? Not everything needs to be a Federal matter.

Why is the sound of a drone of such great concern to you? Cars and motorbikes are louder. Jetskis. Scenic flights and helicopters are louder. Leafblowers and many other power tools too. What makes this new sound so objectionable that this is your reaction? I'm curious.

On closer reading FAA shouldn't not be involved and the issues I have can be dealt with at more appropriate levels of government.

Last a checked noise pollution was a local ordinance issue, my city has all kinds of regulations around noise.

Also last I checked no drone I have ever seen is louder than my Lawn Mower, Weed Eater, Snow Blower, Trimmer, leaf Blower, Table Saw, Chop Saw, Metal Grinder, or 100 other pieces of equipment I have that is perfectly legal to use on my property


You are right. The FAA is not a good place to regulate low level drone flights.

This tends to support my notion that the issue is insufficient enforcement of existing rules, requiring registration is one way to make enforcement easier. Which may be a major goal of revising the rules.

Drones are more dangerous than birds. Birds at least try to see and avoid other aircraft. And upon impact drones cause a lot more damage than birds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QH0V7kp-xg0

Other studies were not as scary, that's why it's the only one releasing images.

Anti-drone policies are good for pilots and manned aircraft operators. The bootleggers-and-baptists theory of political incentives would predict that the agency in charge of manned pilot licensing would find morally positive reasons for banning UAVs. They don’t mention the fact that unmanned aviation could be an existential threat to large sectors of manned aviation, and therefore their political influence.

Nor do they mention the enormous costs imposed on society because they have banned potentially cheaper or more effective means to productive ends.


O.o Most aircraft are highly automated, with humans running checklist programs as the backup system. I doubt that "banning automation" is the motive here as much as, "preventing interference with already functioning automation"

The FAA’s actions admit that interpretation, but fail to exclude the other.

Curious to see where this puts first person view (FPV) flying. I very much enjoy watching this sport grow, but with these new regulations the operator would have to be in line sight at all times.

Maintaining VLOS was already a requirement for section 336 pilots, nothing has changed. There was one way around this which was to have dedicated spotters that kept line of sight on the UAS, I'm curious if the FAA will continue to allow this.

I hope these regulations will finally address bird ownership. Anyone can walk into a pet shop and buy one with no Id. And if one of those birds escapes from a careless owner it could easily hit a plane or ambulance!

Hah! You joke (?) but this is a very real and valid point. They offer equal danger.

The reason the FAA is getting support for making these changes in radio controlled craft is because they give individuals powers they didn't have before. No government wants that.

There hasn't been a single example of a radio controlled craft causing harm to people on commercial flights or the like.


Yes, let’s wait until an idiot with a drone brings down an airliner killing hundreds of people before even considering common sense regulations.

Alright. I'll take you seriously as soon as you agree it implies a need for pet bird licenses, passing exams to own a bird with ID required, and pet bird operating zones for the same reason.

>I'll take you seriously as soon as you agree it implies a need for pet bird licenses, passing exams to own a bird with ID required, and pet bird operating zones for the same reason.

Where are these user-controlled, remotely-operated birds you speak of?


User-controlled/remotely-operated only makes things safer than completely uncontrolled. Unless you're making an argument about terrorists?

In your rush to point out a difference between drones and birds, you managed to pick one where drones have the advantage.


I couldn't agree more.

Here's the opinion of an engineer who is also a drone and fixed wing flyer, Bruce Simpson of the x-jet youtube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcjJFnVzZzY

He thinks that larger organizations such as amazon want the airspace and are lobbying for it.


when cars were first coming into use pennsylvania passed a law which would require all motorists piloting their "horseless carriages", upon chance encounters with cattle or livestock to (1) immediately stop the vehicle, (2) "immediately and as rapidly as possible ... disassemble the automobile", and (3) "conceal the various components out of sight, behind nearby bushes" until equestrian or livestock is sufficiently pacified.

In the UK self-propelled vehicles had to be led by a pedestrian waving a red flag or carrying a lantern to warn bystanders of the vehicle's approach

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_flag_traffic_laws



You can download the final HR302 in .pdf here:

https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr302/BILLS-115hr302enr.p...

(utilities that remove signature panel and permissions which restrict cropping or bookmarking can be used without corrupting document for editing)

Some salient points:

§ 44809 /a/7: The operator has passed an aeronautical knowledge and safety test described in subsection (g) and maintains proof of test passage to be made available to the Administrator or law enforcement upon request

§ 44809 /c/7: Persons operating unmanned aircraft [in controlled areas, eg, near airports] shall make the location of the fixed site known to the Administrator and shall establish a mutually agreed upon operating procedure with the air traffic control facility.

Plus authorization of local micromanagement by 'State, local, and Tribal governments' which can submit applications

Sec. 351:

- prohibiting operations in connection with community or sporting events that do not remain in one place (for example, parades and running events).

- prohibiting flight during specified morning and evening rush hours or only permitting flight during specified hours such as daylight hours, sufficient to ensure

Didn't see any age restrictions on a cursory scan. Rather than setting up a new testing bureaucracy, don't see couldn't they use the existing amateur radio VE pool? Just use General or Extra who already passed the new FAA test.


Just this very evening somebody was flying a big drone all over my neighborhood, on and off again for about an hour or two. It just pisses me off:

No identifying marks. No way to tell who the owner is, nor who's piloting it.

Invasion of privacy. Some unknown person can see into my yard and windows.

Hazard. This is a dense neighborhood. If anything goes wrong with that drone it's going to crash on someone's property or head. This thing was way up in the air and large enough to be seen from quite a distance, maybe 500 meters.

I don't see any way around it. Drones require strict regulation.

I think technology is going to force us to adopt a totalist system (and our humanity will force us to make it humane.) "Star Trek or North Korea" in the limit.


Above 500 metres, in many countries I imagine it would be against a regulation already, or have a particular permit. In Australia, the limit is 120 metres; similar in the US. If it was big enough to be visible at 500 metres, it was likely enterprise level and could've had battery redundancy and parachute-type safety systems. They would've been insured which covers property damage which is the dominant risk by area. Anywhere near that altitude and you would have no chance of seeing a prosumer drone or probably hearing it. At 120 metres, you probably couldn't see or hear my drone against the background noise of suburbia.

Someone can see into your yard looking over the fence. Or from a helicopter or commercial plane taking off or landing. No one wants to see into your yard. If the drone is half a kilometre away, they're not looking through the window at you in the shower.

If there's a drone of that size in the burbs, it's usually taking real estate photos of one property from various angles and they're already under regulation, licensed, insured, etc. They'll often make sure they're hovering above a roof to minimise risk if it falls, etc.

(I operate as a hobby and occasionally commercially under a sub-2kg classification in Australia: https://serio.com.au/ It requires registration and a few other things, but not the $xk in formal licensing. I typically fly in regional areas because there are fewer risks, fewer people to aggravate, and more interesting subject matter.)


> Above 500 metres, in many countries I imagine it would be against a regulation already, or have a particular permit. In Australia, the limit is 120 metres; similar in the US. If it was big enough to be visible at 500 metres, it was likely enterprise level and could've had battery redundancy and parachute-type safety systems. They would've been insured which covers property damage which is the dominant risk by area. Anywhere near that altitude and you would have no chance of seeing a prosumer drone or probably hearing it. At 120 metres, you probably couldn't see or hear my drone against the background noise of suburbia.

Those are all good points, but they also all miss my main point: How can I know?

I could see it and hear it and I roughly estimate it was two or three blocks away. (It sounded like a weed-whacker, but something about the sound nagged at me. Then I saw it from my desk through the open back door (it was a very warm day.) They seemed to keep landing it and then taking off again, maybe to swap batteries?)

In this situation, what can I do to know if it's a legit user or just one of my neighbors being a jackass? Can I call the police? What could they do about it?

> Someone can see into your yard looking over the fence.

No they can't. The hedges are two stories high, for a reason.

> Or from a helicopter

People don't joyride helicopters over this area.

> or commercial plane taking off or landing.

No nearby airstrips.

> No one wants to see into your yard.

You don't know that.

> If the drone is half a kilometre away, they're not looking through the window at you in the shower.

Again, you don't know that. We don't know what the drone is carrying and that's my main point.

(Good luck to anyone who sees me in the shower though! The sight would be it's own punishment.)

And anyway, it's my weed plants I don't want neighbors to see. Last thing I need is some adventurous idiot hopping the fence to snatch my hairy, stinky, glittering nuggets right at harvest time!

> If there's a drone of that size in the burbs, it's usually taking real estate photos of one property from various angles and they're already under regulation, licensed, insured, etc. They'll often make sure they're hovering above a roof to minimise risk if it falls, etc.

Again, I'm not saying we should ban legit users (commercial or hobbyist), I'm saying that there has to be some way to deal with the new technology when people are doing stupid stuff with it. These guys were just flying around all over a dense residential neighborhood. It might have been legit surveying or something, or it might have been some dude playing with his flying go-pro. How can I tell? What can I do about it if it's the latter?

> (I operate as a hobby and occasionally commercially under a sub-2kg classification in Australia: https://serio.com.au/ It requires registration and a few other things, but not the $xk in formal licensing. I typically fly in regional areas because there are fewer risks, fewer people to aggravate, and more interesting subject matter.)

I used to launch model rockets. Not too often though, because my parents had to drive me to a large field outside of town because it's illegal to do it in town, and they didn't always have time. Such is life, eh?


Yes, they would've been swapping batteries every 20-30 minutes perhaps, depending on manoeuvres.

I've had someone say "Drones are so creepy. Someone could photograph me sunbaking nude in my backyard!" despite being the sort of person who would never sunbake, never get nude in their backyard, and not be anyone that someone would want to photograph nude in their backyard. It's a false drama.

People in this thread are talking about drones flying near airports and hitting planes and you want to dob in a real estate photographer in case it's a jackass (when it's probably a hobbyist taking photos of their suburb from a unique angle with similar resolution to satellite photos all over Google Maps). Even with a large format camera, from that distance, you're probably a pixel.

I was photographing a near-empty beach the other month and accidentally caught a guy nude getting changed beside his car after a morning swim at a public beach. Even from absolutely nowhere near 500 metres, you could see 10 pixels of skin tone and nothing more. I deleted the shot and kept editing the others from that set.

If it's a jackass persistently buzzing your house, you watch where it lands and say "Hey, I know it's a fun toy but it's driving my dog crazy. Can you avoid the area on this side? Thanks man!" Call the cops for something serious.

If a drone crashes into your house or car, it has identifying information that you will be able to use to pursue the pilot. "Oh, but what if it was bought caaaash?"

I'm regularly baffled by the reaction to drones. I'm not talking about safety concerns with aircraft, but things like someone standing there raging about a drone that launched and then left the area while a jetski is audible for an hour across an entire bay. National parks talk about the impact on wildlife when, while driving a highway in Australia, you pass a roadkill from cars literally every few metres.

I got a permit to fly in a national park the other month. I launched in the car park and then for 99% of the flight, I would've been inaudible to anyone there, hundreds of metres away from hiking routes. Even someone flying against regulations in that spot (over the canyon) was only audible as background noise for 5 minutes. Same day, 5 sightseeing choppers and planes circled over for much longer and people just ignored them. People take issue with new things.


> I think technology is going to force us to adopt a totalist system (and our humanity will force us to make it humane.) "Star Trek or North Korea" in the limit.

Star Trek (or at least the UFP, other regimes in the fiction vary considerably) isn't remotely “totalist”, North Korea isn't humanitarian; neither is an example of a system that is both.


Sorry, I was unclear.

I meant "totalist" in the sense that we're going to record and store all our activity. This, in turn, will force us to confront ourselves, or we'll turn into a mechanized version of (inhumane) N. Korea.

> The true horror of technological omniscience is that it shall force us for once to live according to our own rules. For the first time in history we shall have to do without hypocrisy and privilege. The new equilibrium will not involve tilting at the windmills of ubiquitous sensors and processing power but rather learning what explicit rules we can actually live by, finding, in effect, the real shape of human society.

~ https://firequery.blogspot.com/2013/10/total-surveillance-is...

My thesis is that technology forces us to a total information awareness regime, and the choice is between a relatively open and egalitarian system like UFP or a system of gross privilege and starving serfs unbreakably enforced by machine.

To me, drone legislation is a part of this larger process of humanity coming to terms with our power as thinking tool-users.


I'm a pilot. We have a saying: that the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations) are written in blood. It's very literal. The rulebook for manned flight is comprised mostly of regulations enacted because someone died in a preventable way and we are a deliberately safety-conscious culture.

Aviation has 115 years under its belt, and many of those are full of fatalities. One of the issues I see with drones as an emerging industry is that people seem unwilling to learn from our history. I've only been flying for a few years and myself and most of my friends have near-miss stories with other full size, fairly slow moving aircaft. How can we expect to see a drone head-on where there's no relative motion?

Having the privileged of flying in the national airspace system means shouldering the responsibility of keeping yourself, your passengers, and the people around you safe. Knowing the airplane, weather, and terrain can keep you and your passengers safe. To keep everyone else safe, you need to work with the system so that we can manage increasingly congested areas around the country.

TLDR: If drone companies and operators want to be treated like grownups, they'll need to grow up.


> the privileged of flying in the national airspace system

This is exactly the core of the problem. You've claimed the entire atmosphere as your private domain, from the ground up. Territorial claims are founded on use; you have no right to exclude others from airspace which is not part of a routine flight corridor. Certainly nothing below 400' and not part of a standard takeoff or approach glide path should be considered part of the national airspace system or otherwise subject to FAA jurisdiction.


It's not private, it's a national resource. Every time you fly any airliner you use this system. The reason the US airspace system is so expansive is that it's necessary to allow the level of freedom afforded to private aircraft (think Piper, not Gulfstream) while maintaining safety and coverage as top priorities.

However, you're correct that most airspace below 400 feet AGL shouldn't be considered part of the system. Generally, that's not considered navigable unless it's being used takeoff and landing.


> It's not private, it's a national resource.

If you're setting rules for how something can be used then you're treating it as your private property. Even if you happen to be the U.S. government. So-called "public property" is nothing more or less than property the government has claimed for its own exclusive (i.e. private) use.

> Every time you fly any airliner you use this system.

Obviously. That's the same as saying "planes fly in the air". But commercial flights follow defined routes between specific airports; they don't need to claim the entire atmosphere for that, just the relatively tiny corridors they routinely fly through.

> Generally, [below 400' AGL is] not considered navigable unless it's being used takeoff and landing.

And yet here we are, with the FAA imposing onerous regulations on hobbyists flying model aircraft too small to pose any realistic threat to anything well below that altitude.


The problem here isn't that the FAA is regulating, we do need rules of the road for drones. The problem is up until this point they didn't have the legal authority to do so. From 2010-2014 the FAA put out some draconian memos and statements with scary insinuations that suggested they had the power to regulate drones flying inside your house. These fear tactics required my university to shut down flights of model aircraft, my competition team at an aerial robotics competition couldn't compete from 2014 - 2017.

My 2 cents as an F-18 pilot turned software dev interested in the space:

They need to break apart rules for the true hobbyists, the model airplane flyers: dedicated areas below certain altitudes. They also need to embrace private property rights to a certain altitude. Who wants an Amazon Prime distribution center doing 10,000 flights a day over their kids playing in the backyard. [1]

Future BVR (and autonomous) drone operations between 200-400’ will eventually more closely resemble IFR class-A than VFR airspace. [2] Routes need to be defined. [3] Emergency landing areas need to be determined. [4] Comms (network) out procedure need to be planned. [5] And more.

It will require significant local involvement. The FAA is going to make sure accident information is shared so lessons can be learned. [6] Part-135 will play a role. [7]

For manned aviation these things were implemented over a century with lessons written in blood. [8] It’s going to happen quicker for drones and this is a step in the right direction. People like this are helping to force the issue. [9]

[1] https://www.unmannedairspace.info/uncategorized/ulc-proposes...

[2] https://www.faasafety.gov/gslac/ALC/course_content.aspx?cID=...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airway_(aviation)

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_landing

[5] https://www.faasafety.gov/files/gslac/courses/content/38/483...

[6] https://uavcoach.com/daniel-elwell-interdrone-2018/

[7] https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/atos/135_certification...

[8] https://aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/13081/why-do-pe...

[9] https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/video/3931613-drone-crashe...


The FAA sounds so risk averse. I bet if passenger planes were invented today, the FAA would never allow them.

I am actually surprised the FAA was so tolerant of drones for so long. Commercial drone operators are for more regulation because they know the day some dope flies a drone into an approaching aircraft it will cause more draconian responses.

Meanwhile there are millions of unguided medium sized drones flying around airports and everywhere (Birds). I think the 400ft line of sight rule is plenty safe because short of aircraft taking off or making a final approach there aren't aircraft in this zone (Or should there be as flying so low would give a plane very little time to react to an engine failure.) If drones hitting people in the heads becomes a big issue, terrestrial laws are better to handle that. Generally besides areas very close to airports the FAA shouldn't be regulating <400ft AGL.


>>I am actually surprised the FAA was so tolerant of drones for so long.

They were mandated by law to be "tolerant", Section 336 protected Hobby Flying. Section 336 is now repealed.


> Or should there be as flying so low would give a plane very little time to react to an engine failure.

An aircraft might be there precisely because of an equipment failure.


Ok then I suppose we should trim all trees to 50ft or less and ban structures that high, and exclude all birds from the skies there because an aircraft might be on a near crash unpowered approach. Also at that point, hitting a small drone is the least of their problems.

There are rules on structure height in approach paths. It doesn't restrict everything over 50 ft, but with drones we're talking 400 ft here, and they're practically invisible and don't carry transponders. If your drone crashes into an airplane, you buy a new one. The other guy might not be so fortunate.

At 400ft with a glide slope of 20:1 you are at 0ft in ~1.5 miles. You'd probably hit something else in a mile or less that is far more substantial than a drone at a lot greater probability.

A piston twin with one engine out may be unable to maintain altitude but have a drift down slope of way shallower than 20:1...

As a pilot, I have no objection to something sensible and low-risk like under 100' AGL more than a mile from an airport boundary without FAA involvement. Much over that, I want the FAA to have a say in the matter. I've had one close call on approach (defined as "close enough that I could see the drone lights visually from the cockpit").


Risk aversion is why commercial flight is so safe, though.

Yea I'm actually OK with them being risk adverse, because I don't really want to have to worry about the plane I am flying in suddenly dropping out of the sky for any number of reasons.

I'm equally uncomfortable with your plane falling on me suddenly.

No, you have to move fast and kill people by the hundreds.

825,000 drones were sold in the U.S. in 2016

The move fast happened a while ago.

Where is the killing people by the 100s?


Is it? Commercial flight isn't that much more dangerous in other developed countries.

Also, the FAA does grandfather in a lot of stuff. If the Cessna 172 was invented today, the FAA would never allow it to carry passengers or get near populated areas.

Lastly, I'm not sure if modern passenger jets would be allowed in the same way if invented today. The FAA would probably restrict them within 100 miles of urban areas. After all, what if people tried to crash them into buildings?


> Is it? Commercial flight isn't that much more dangerous in other developed countries.

Developed countries also have an FAA equivalent. Regulation is equally strict in the EU for instance.


Other countries follow a lot of FAA recommendations voluntarily, even if they have no jurisdiction there.

> If the Cessna 172 was invented today, the FAA would never allow it to carry passengers...

Why? Are you saying they'd ban all single engine aircraft from carrying passengers? What about the SR22?


Don't let them know about the Experimental-Amateur Built category where anyone can build an airplane in their garage and a licensed pilot can go fly it with very limited FAA oversight of the construction...

It’s not like there are no rules to follow: http://www.faa-aircraft-certification.com/amateur-built-oper...

Is the FAA different in risk aversion to other developed country equivalents?

> I bet if passenger planes were invented today, the FAA would never allow them

No, the Sikorsky Ilya Muromets [1], "the first aircraft...intended for carrying multiple passengers in commercial service" [2] wouldn't pass FAA muster.

I'm not sure that observation is useful, though. Before the Ilya Muromets, passenger air travel didn't exist. There was no baseline. (There was no FAA.) Today, we have a baseline from which parity or improvement is demanded. That future innovators are constrained in not sacrificing safety for e.g. fuel economy is intended.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_Ilya_Muromets

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airliner#History


That's the life cycle of all human endeavours:

1) take big risks to be an innovator

2) succeed and grow like crazy to become the establishment

3) become extremely risk averse to try to maintain your position

4) get disrupted


> 4) get disrupted

More like 4) Hire lobbyists and donate to politicians in order to to criminalize competition under the guise of "protecting the public". :-)


Risk aversion and mitigation is exactly why they exist.

I don't see in their regulation things to improve reliability of drones (parachutes, standard of manufacturing and care, stuff like that), just pure restriction of use. There is no mitigation here.

You do realise that drone are just a sideline for the FAA, right?

I saw this video recently. Changed my mind on regulating drones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QH0V7kp-xg0


Really HN, Posting an informative video gets downvoted without a single comment. The internet points are irrelevant but it is a sad sign on commentary here.

Here come all the comments that are strangely pro regulation.

It's amazing, isn't it?

Totally! Its like im reading comments from some alternative reality HN. Drone deliveries could transform the world in a more significant way than even smartphones. Can you imagine the number of lives that could be saved by just reducing vehicle accidents?

Just a consideration: instead of regulating drones more, we could also regulate planes less to make them more equal.

Dropping aviation regulations will lead to dangerous corner-cutting, which will lead to more mistakes (which in aviation, usually means deaths).

Truly some sage advice, I say bring on the unlicensed pilots.

ultralights can already be piloted without a license or registration. Its an amazing degree of freedom that most don't realize they have.

Ultralights have very strict restrictions and rules where they can be operated, to limit the risk to others.

14 CFR 103.15: "No person may operate an ultralight vehicle over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons."

Also, you don’t need a license, but trying to fly without sufficient and proper training is likely to get you killed. These aren’t bicycles.




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