After two back-to-back reported cases of drones flying too close to Boston’s Logan Airport, area drone professionals told Metro they were worried amateurs who disregard flight rules might spoil the fun, and business, for everyone else.
“There are boneheads out there,” said one self-described professional hobbyist in the region who asked Metro not to print his name.
Airline pilots flying into Logan reported seeing drones flying near the airport on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, violating Federal Aviation Administration rules against flights within five miles of the airport. The FAA is investigating the incidents, a spokeswoman told Metro.
Cases like those, drone businesspeople worry, are giving the rapidly growing industry a bad name.
New regulations are putting more pressure on those who fly drones for fun or for work.
As of Dec. 21, those with drones that weigh more than about half a pound now have to register their devices or risk facing steep fines. Many commercial operators, like the one who spoke with Metro, also have to obtain pricey FAA licenses.
As drone mishaps hit the news, the drone-flyer said, he worries new red tape might put a damper on his business, which includes tasks like shooting aerial photographs of real estate listings or 3D mapping construction sites, and all of which only requires that he fly his drone at 100 or 200 feet in the air.
“It’s getting to the point where I’m almost ready to tie helium balloons on my drones and fly them with a string because it’s so crazy, all these rules,” he said. “I think it’s just a hair of overreaction because it’s something people don’t really know or understand.”
He added that he does comply with regulations and said he doesn’t mind law enforcement efforts to “weed out some of the bad actors.”
Drones were in high demand in 2015, particularly this holiday season, when forecasters estimated shoppers would buy 700,000 of the devices in the U.S.
The FAA has “initiated 24 enforcement cases” involving drones, spokeswoman Arlene Salac told Metro.
The agency has also launched new education campaigns for the public and law enforcement on monitoring the skies for illegal unmanned aircraft, Salac said. One is called Know Before you Fly. Another is called No Drone Zone.
Massachusetts State Police told the Boston Globe on Saturday the department planned to launch a public awareness campaign in the state this year.
Justin Mara, who owns Skylab Boston, a two-year-old company based in Winthrop that sells, builds and repairs drones, said his company has already taken up education on its own.
Mara teaches classes on safe operation and following regulations, and Skylab’s invoices even include a disclaimer cautioning against illegal flights. Doing so has a lot to do with job security, he said.
“People don’t take responsibility when they fly and that’s affecting people who use them for business like me,” Mara said, adding that he’s noticed some drone-buyers are “scared” to buy heavier drones from him for fear of having to be listed in an FAA registry.
Although he feels confident drone culture will continue to flourish, Mara said he worries about drone-operating “clowns” shaping lawmakers’ ideas about the hobby he loves.
“If things keep going the way they are,” he said, “If people keep getting in trouble, they could just try to outlaw them altogether and that’s a big concern for us, definitely.”
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