Moran: Drone use must be self-regulated

Ben Moran

Personal drones are becoming easier to obtain and with improvements being made, they are becoming more versatile as well, which raises a growing concern; how are they being regulated? Due to the potential negative uses of personal drones, they need strict regulations to prevent civilian misuse.

About a week ago, an unmanned drone was found at Strangeways Prison in Manchester, England carrying drugs and cell phones. And this wasn’t the first time drones have been used to sneak items into Strangeways, Manchester Evening News reports.

When it comes to improvements to drones, CyPhy Works in Boston has recently created a drone that measures flight time in days not minutes. Aside from being powered from a grid or generator instead of a regular battery, the PARC drone is designed for surveillance.

Surveillance and personal usage have always been a topic of discussion when it comes to drones and the FAA has begun to regulate usage of drones with the Know Before You Fly campaign.

This campaign regulates usage of unmanned aircraft’s, whether used publicly, personally, or for businesses. For recreational users, some guidelines include not flying within five miles of an airport or remaining under four hundred feet flight altitude.

With these guidelines in place, the FAA is beginning to set boundaries on what is acceptable with unmanned drones. But what’s stopping someone from disobeying these guidelines? If I wanted to create chaos in a park with my drone, how would someone know it’s me? If I wanted to spy on someone from a remote location using my drone, who is going to stop me?

Thankfully the FAA has taken care of this too.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced in October that recreational drone users will be required to register their drone with the federal government. The goal is to have these new rules reported by November 20th and running by December in time for the Christmas holiday – which the FFA has named the most popular gift for 2015.

This required registration will help monitor drones when being flown near manned aircraft’s or in restricted fly zones.

With guidelines in place and a registration system being created, what else could go wrong? Well, again, how is the use of these drones going to be monitored? How would one tell if someone is breaking laws with an unmanned aircraft?

When I decided to write about drones for this column, I didn’t know most of the information I used and I believed drone usage was getting out of hand and need to be better regulated. My beliefs were founded upon a few extreme cases I had read about in the news.

After quite a bit of research, I learned that more is being done to control drones that I originally anticipated. But what’s to stop someone from breaking these regulations and guidelines?

The increase sale and use of drones is a huge milestone for technology, but there are still many aspects of drone usage that are left unanswered.  I didn’t find an answer as to how drones will be monitored.

When I was ten, I was ecstatic about an RC Helicopter that I could only use for fifteen minutes and couldn’t fly more than five feet away from me. Now, ten years later, we’ve started to create unmanned aircrafts that are vastly superior to anything available ten years ago.

Back then, no one had to monitor what I did with my toy helicopter, but with the improved technology being implemented into drones, monitoring is a must.

Take for example, Iowa State alumni AJ McNeil, who was an interned employee and drone operator for Peoples Company, a real estate company and land brokerage. Last year, he made headlines with the Iowa State Daily for the usage of his drone not only for recreational use, but for the use of Peoples Company.

This quickly caught the attention of the FAA and the Iowa State Daily ran another article on the update of McNeil and Peoples Company drone usage.

Before the article, no one thought anything of Peoples Company and McNeil’s use of their drone, but after being publicized, the FAA became involved.

This is just one of many cases in which monitoring of drone usage is at a minimum.

If regulations and guidelines are going to be placed on drone activity, then it must be monitored and with the increase sale of drones this coming holiday, it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.