In the US, drone pilots have to contend with the FAA, in New Zealand it’s the CAA or the Civil Aviation Authority. I’d like to share the following story because it shows what can happen when the government decides to crack down too aggressively. Bruce Simpson writes about his personal drone experience and perspective on the recent CAA regulations.
In my entire 55 years of flying model aircraft, I have never once injured anyone nor damaged anyone else’s property – and that’s despite being a very active participant of the hobby. Most of the time I was flying the only rule was ‘use common sense’ – and obviously this has worked pretty well for me and the thousands of other Kiwis that have enjoyed this innocent pastime. I have searched high and low but can not find any records of anyone dying or harming another in New Zealand as a result of this hobby and it seems that the only injuries sustained seem to be related to the operator’s own body and small propellers – sometimes painful but not fatal.
So it was with great sadness, that I read through the CAA’s new regulations for the operation of radio controlled flying models and drones – now collectively called “remotely-piloted aircraft”. How tragic it is that in one fell swoop of the regulator’s pen, those who fly these craft for pleasure and relaxation are now treated like criminals and have effectively been stripped of the rights they’ve enjoyed for so long – despite the fact that this hobby has an outstanding safety record?
No longer can a father and his young boy just walk down to the local schoolyard or park to fly the cheap toy model purchased online from China or carefully hand-crafted over a long series of winter evenings. Although these craft may weigh just a few tens of grams, the new regulations consider them to be every bit as menacing, risky and dangerous as the much larger professional drones used by commercial operators.
If you or your children fly their tiny toys anywhere, without first obtaining the permission of the property owner over which they will briefly soar, then a $5000 fine is in the offing.
In California, we are seeing too many stories where drones are portrayed in a negative light after hampering firefighting efforts (this even happened when my favorite sandwich shop recently burned down). If the public opinion becomes polarized against drones, then we may be forced to contend with similar regulations. I’d prefer we educate instead of regulate. Bruce should at least be pleased that the maximum fine that can be levied is just $5,000. If you fly your drone commercially in the US, the FAA can fine you (and your customer) up to $10,000. At least in the US, we can get Section 333 Exemptions.