You Better Watch Out; You Better Not FLY!

Everyone in the U.S.A., it seems, has gotten a drone this year for Xmas, even those who got one last year [because it was either crashed by a novice pilot (child or stoned adult) or actually stoned by annoyed neighbors].

These terrible tiny toys terrifying terrestrial territories are so ubiquitous that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a kid-oriented video warning of the dangers presented by drone piloting and providing guidelines for safe operation, such as not launching anything heavier than their 5-year-old brother (actually the FAA stated that 50 lbs. is the limit).

Strangely, the government presentation does not warn of what is perhaps the most common danger to drones and drone pilots themselves, one that can lead to mysterious outbreaks of black eyes, flying over your neighbor’s hot tub!

“Safe Operation, Rules of the Air,” contains common sense guidelines, the FAA having declared that, by definition, small drones ARE “aircraft” under government rules and therefore DO fall under FAA regulations.

“Unmanned aircraft, regardless of whether the operation is for recreational, hobby, business, or commercial purposes, are aircraft within both the definitions found in statute under title 49 of U.S. Code, section 40102(a)(6) [49 U.S.C. § 40102(a)(6)] and title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations section 1.1.[14 C.F.R. § 1.1].”

Section 40102(a)(6) defines an aircraft as “any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate or fly in the air.” The FAA’s regulations (14 C.F.R. § 1.1.) similarly define an aircraft as “a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air.” Because an unmanned aircraft is a contrivance/device that is invented, used, and designed to fly in the air, an unmanned aircraft is an aircraft based on the unambiguous language in the FAA’s statute and regulations.

In addition, Public Law 112-95, Section 331(6),(8), and (9) expressly defines the terms “small unmanned aircraft,” “unmanned aircraft,” and “unmanned aircraft system” as aircraft. Model aircraft are also defined as “aircraft” per Public Law 112-95, section 336(c).

In particular, the guidelines issued for Christmas warned people to keep drones away from stadiums and airports, pointing out that if kept under 400 feet altitude they were exempt from government regulation (but not liability) because the FAA doesn’t control the airspace below 400 ft.