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Drone Laws: What You Need to Know

What are the existing drone laws, and why do you need to be aware of them?

By
Eric Escobar,
September 10, 2015
Episode #189

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Chances are that you’ve seen drones on the news, whether at a sporting event like the US Open, on the Whitehouse lawn, in a volcano, or perhaps just capturing some awesome cinematography. Drones, which are also known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems, have been a hot topic for lawmakers in almost every state due to their huge rise in popularity and decreasing price. 

If you’re not familiar with drones, they are essentially remote control helicopters. Drones started out like many other model aircrafts: they were a fun way for hobbyists to tinker and come up with new designs to see how long and far they could be flown. As electronics became more powerful, batteries became lighter, and materials got lighter, different drone designs and control systems became popular.

The most common drone design you’ll see on the market is known as a ‘Quad Copter," which is a helicopter with four independent propellers. Without getting deep into the physics of it, the four propellers allow the drone to move in any direction with an extreme amount of control.

But why have drones risen in popularity recently? For starters, drones used to be extremely expensive, and have begun to drop considerably as many different companies began to produce more and better quality drones. The first drone I purchased was about two years ago, and since then it has been outpaced by many other drones on the market in terms of how fast it goes, the battery life, and most other aspects.

One of the primary uses for drones today is taking amazing cinematography. For example DJI’s Phantom 3 drone costs about $500, but has a camera mounted to it that is better than most models of GoPro’s on the market, and has a range of over a mile! If you’ve never seen video or pictures taken by a drone, I recommend the following link.

The ability of drones to carry light weight objects and take awesome video makes them perfect for chronicling sporting events, or inspecting hard-to-access places such as roof tiles, canopies of rainforest trees, or even in the heart of an erupting volcano. However, the ability to take high resolution video from a distance has a lot of people anxious because of the other, more nefarious uses of drones. For example, paparazzi have used drones to fly over fences, into backyards, and have the ability to invade privacy way more than ever before.

Drones have even been known to crash into spectators of an event, which can cause significant injury due to the propellers, or just the sheer weight of a drone hitting them. Drones have even been a cause for concern for the White House when, last May, a man lost control of his drone and it ended up on the front lawn.

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