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The FCC Wants Drone Operators to Have Conventional Pilot’s Licenses

by Stirling Matheson
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To become a licensed pilot, one needs a recent clean bill of health from an FAA-certified Airman Medical Examiner, to spend about $5,000 on pilot’s education, pass a test on the legalities and physics of airplane flight, log 30 to 40 hours in a plane with an instructor (although most do about 70), fly solo under an instructor’s supervision, and take a flight test. This will get you a license. With the exception of some of the physics learned in the educational part of the training, virtually none of this prepares a person to operate a multi-rotor drone safely.

skysense uav drone charging pad 6zoom in

Regardless, the FAA now wants drone operators to be required to have a proper pilot’s license. Not even the slightly easier to get Light Sport Aircraft license will do, despite the average drone being a whole hell of a lot lighter than the 1,430 pound upper limit on LSAs. What their proposal does do is put a huge financial and temporal burden on small film-makers who are taking advantage of the fact that buying a $3,000 drone can get them the kinds of shots that they would otherwise need a pilot’s license for. It does nothing for public safety, on account of the pure irrelevance of the training, but puts a huge anchor on one of the fastest-growing segments of our economy. In addition, drones would only be legal to fly during the day, under 400 feet, and within line-of-sight of the operator. Because Hollywood uses large and expensive drones and has powerful lobbyists, this would only apply to drones under 55 lbs.

skysense uav drone charging pad

Given the privacy and safety concerns of drone operation, I can support licensing for operators, but this is insane. Requiring a short course on some basic safety, legal, physics, and operation principals of multi-rotor operation makes good sense, as long as the total cost of licensing doesn’t exceed $250. This won’t be formally proposed until later this year, and it will be open to public comment after that point, so get ready to complain online.

[via The Washington Post]

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