California startup helps to clear confusion surrounding lawful use of drones

Global Business

Drones are expected to be huge sellers once again this holiday season. But some are asking questions now about whether the regulations surrounding their use are clear enough. They’ve been cited in numerous near-misses with helicopters and airplanes and even been used to smuggle drugs and weapons into prisons by flying them over the walls.

CGTN’s Phil Lavelle reports.

Of course, these are extreme cases but one point remains: anybody can buy and fly a drone, with no training or knowledge of the rules.

“It’s the closest thing to being able to fly in real life without being a full-blown airplane pilot. I really think it’s having that unique perspective of the area around you, whether it’s your own backyard or if you’re traveling and you’re checking out a new place, being able to get that Birdseye view, that new perspective, there’s nothing quite like it,” said drone enthusiast Erik.

Amazon has been vocal about its ambitions for drones, hoping they’ll one day be used to deliver items to customers. And real estate agents routinely use them to offer breathtaking views of properties – especially those on hills and cliffs with amazing vantage points. But many struggle to work out the rules which can vary from city to city.

Nicholas Osgood is a Drone Safety expert and explains, “The FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] governs all drone flying operations and national airspace. But local jurisdictions and communities can actually limit how a drone can take off. So they’re not controlling the airspace, but the take off and landing. In national parks, you’re not allowed to take off BUT if you take off outside the park, you’re technically allowed to fly over it.”

“The problem is, you don’t know what you don’t know. So when people get their drone for the first time, there’s really no packaging or labels like a surgeon general’s warning that talks about the safety hazards or regulations to fly a drone. Also, there really isn’t an equivalent of a drone’s driving license so there’s no formal training before you can unpack it and hit the drone up in the air.”

There are several apps to help – the idea being that they’ll tell you if you’re in a no-fly zone. Others will go film your shots for you, like Los Angeles-based startup, DroneBase. It’s working directly with the FAA.

Think of it as an uber for drones: taking requests for filming, checking all the rules and regulations, then dispatching its own drones to do the work.

Founder, Dan Burton explaining that even the big airports – like Los Angeles’ LAX – allowing drones much nearer than they used to, with conditions.

“Around LAX, last year, there was just a five-mile radius all around LAX. It was restricted airspace. They’ve reimagined that airspace now where if you’re right off the runway, its still no. There’s no allowable height. However, if you go 500ft, off the runway, maybe they’ll approve 50 feet, a mile away, maybe 200 feet. A year ago, we said no to 30 percent of all drone flights, now we’re saying no to less than 1 percent so it’s been a really helpful change.” said Dan Burton, founder of DroneBase.