FAA worries you'll do dumb things with drone Christmas gifts

  • Drones _ the remotely controlled flying devices that often carry cameras and can be navigated with a smartphone or controller _ are "taking off" as popular gifts this year, for serious hobbyists and casual users alike, young and old.

    Drones _ the remotely controlled flying devices that often carry cameras and can be navigated with a smartphone or controller _ are "taking off" as popular gifts this year, for serious hobbyists and casual users alike, young and old. Associated Press

 
By Craig Whitlock
The Washington Post
Posted12/24/2014 7:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Santa Claus may travel on a reindeer-powered sleigh, but he's expected to deliver a ton of highflying drones this week to teenagers and other amateur aviators, which is making for an anxious yuletide season at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

On Monday, the FAA and the drone industry kicked off a public awareness campaign to urge novice drone operators to pay attention to safety and not do dumb things like fly too close to passenger planes, buzz crowds of bystanders on the ground, or get drunk while flying that new remote control helicopter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While such advice may sound like basic common sense, FAA officials have been grappling recently with a hair-raising number of incidents in which rogue drones have nearly collided with commercial airliners and other aircraft. And they're worried that the growing popularity and affordability of small consumer drones this Christmas could exacerbate the problem.

"This is an issue of growing concern," Michael Huerta, the FAA administrator, told reporters. "This newer and more powerful technology is affordable to more people, yet many are not familiar with the rules of flying."

The campaign is dubbed "Know Before You Fly" and includes videos instructing people how to "stay off the naughty list" when playing with their new gifts. Among the basics: Don't fly drones above 400 feet, within five miles of an airport or near a stadium.

Although Congress has ordered the FAA to integrate drones into the national airspace, the agency has moved slowly to impose a permanent set of standards and regulations to ensure drone safety. Temporary guidelines are in place but are often ignored by drone enthusiasts or businesses that chafe at the FAA's restrictions.

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