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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

Heads up as FAA looks at the future of drones

By Emilee Bench, Deseret News

Published: Thu, Aug. 28 12:19 p.m. MDT

 Drones have become a frequent spectator for many events, flying above buildings, landscapes and even through fireworks. But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the humming, flying objects.

Drones have become a frequent spectator for many events, flying above buildings, landscapes and even through fireworks. But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the humming, flying objects.

(Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — You've seen them above sporting events, crashing waves, gorgeous buildings and even through fireworks. Drones have become a frequent spectator for many events.

"What I've noticed is this huge surge of curiosity and popularity with it," Branden Bingham said. "Anywhere I take it, I draw a crowd."

Bingham flies his drone for sport. He said he likes filming a variety of things, including rock climbing videos. "Really anything that I just look at and think, 'Man, that would be epic to fly over,' I'll go grab my drone and fly over it," he said.

His latest project is filming all the Utah temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Aerial video used to require a chopper pilot and someone to handle a camera hanging out the side.

"Now it's as simple as coming to a field like this with a simple $500 piece of equipment, and you launch it up into the sky," he said.

But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the humming, flying objects. Commercial use of drones is illegal without a special permit from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Utah Legislature passed a law earlier this year requiring a warrant to use drones for surveillance.

"The point in this legislation that was passed this year is not necessarily to limit those good uses but to make sure that this new technology is not being abused by law enforcement," said Marina Lowe with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

But she said it's a different case when it comes to photographers like Bingham.

"If you were to put some restriction on that sort of behavior you might actually run into some other constitutional concerns," Lowe said.

Utah Senator Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said privacy is a big issue when it comes to drones.

"I really don't want to be observed in my swimming pool," he said, adding that he expects to see legislation in the future.

"The industry has actually gone out in front of the rules. And so we're making these things and using them different than maybe they intended when we get the rules in place," he said.

The gray area extends beyond Utah. The FAA is working to define drones and toys, and decide just how high they can fly. It is also working to decide what privacy and environmental protection is needed in order to help integrate commercial and military drones into national airspace.

Its No. 1 priority is safety.

"How are we going to keep the hobbyist happy, the people who are using it for commercial use, and then also the people who are worried about being spied on in their garden?" Bingham asked. "You've got to find the middle ground."

Establishing that middle ground is something Stevenson foresees.

"I think you'll see a lot of legislation within the next four or five years involving unmanned vehicles," he said.

But for the time being, Bingham said, "I think it's also just an incredible way to get spectacular video that was not easy to get before."

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com

Recommended
1. Liberal Ted
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 28, 2014

It's not a drone when you have someone operating it. The more proper term is UAV.

2. one vote
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 28, 2014

Computers will fly them at night and deliver to house robot. Bye soon to large polluting delivery trucks. You can send UAV to run errands and shop on inversion days, bye to cars.

3. Forgotten pilot
Taylorsville, UT,
Aug. 29, 2014

At Liberal Ted:
Says who Ted ? Do you have a source to back up that statement?
Calling those devices properly a UAV or RPV is possible, but it is also a *Drone*.
Even the Air force, often calls them Drones ... but they prefer to call them UAV or FPV.
All depends on whom you are talking to.

If a model airplane is operated by *line of sight* what is it ?
When the operator looses control of that same vehicle, does it now become a drone ?

An unmanned aircraft that flies autonomously, using GPS to navigate a complex flight path without human control, could fall squarely within the definition of drone.
But before it flies autonomously, was it a *drone* ?
If for any reason, a highly skilled pilot (as in Air Force Pilot), happens to decide to take over the controls, does the drone miraculously transform into a UAV or FPV ?

4. 100%TruePAtriot
cincinnati, OH,
Aug. 29, 2014

Enter commentThe Utah Legislature passed a law earlier this year requiring a warrant to use drones for surveillance.

Does anyone honestly think that cops or their 'stool pigeons' will get a warrant?

And how will this apply to feds? And private investigators?

IMHO drones should be micromanaged and all information posted for easy access by the public instantly.

Hobbyists are usually decent people. And not too much of a problem most times.

But commercial using images of YOUR property to make money without compensating you?
I draw the line there.

And you can be 100% absolutely CERTAIN that law enforcement WILL abuse this technology at every turn, regardless of any laws. They will just claim 'anonymous tip' and proceed.

George Orwell's 1984....

5. Dave T in Ogden
Ogden, UT,
Aug. 29, 2014

There can be other uses for drones. Imagine if heavy lifting drone helicopters were made to put out wildfires and natural gas fires. An army of drone helicopters could transport fire retardants to drop on wildfires. Imagine transporting emergency supplies to places after a disaster. These aircrafts could also help with search and rescue. They could be the eyes to look for people in the mountains.
There are great breakthroughs in robotic technology. Robots could cut down trees and place fire retardants in smart places around fires. Robots could turn off natural gas leaks at places where gas fires are located. Natural gas fires can be a problem after a disaster has occurred in many neighborhoods. Robots could be placed closer to where it does not matter how hot it gets. Drones would drop robots to hard to reach places.
Manufacturers of present day drones could make heavy lifting drone helicopters. They could be awarded a nice contract by FEMA to do such thing. There are many other uses of drones besides spying. Drones should be used for such purposes.