By Manuel Sandoval |Staff Writer|
Drone regulations in the Inland Empire are imminent.
In February the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed potential rules which would allow drones weighing up to 55 pounds to fly within sight of their remote pilots during daylight hours. The drone will have to stay below 500 feet in the air and fly less than 100 mph.
According to the FAA, people flying drones would need to be at least 17-years-old, pass an aeronautics test and be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
The FAA expects 18 months or longer before the rules are completed, according to USA Today.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is planning to set up a task force to study registration of drones.
Local residents and professionals raise questions on the proposed regulations.
“Ramifications from this can be huge. My hope is that they don’t come up with something that will hurt the industry,” said Vincent Nestler, a professor of information and decision sciences at CSUSB.
Many drone owners are concerned that the government is not going to give them enough time after they draft the proposed rules to get their drone registered, according to The Sun.
Law enforcement said the impending registration policy will be difficult to enforce.
“The biggest concern with drones is safety,” said Sgt. Dan Futscher, San Bernardino County Sheriffs Pilot.
“Many drone operators are not educated on how to safely fly their unmanned aerial vehicle without disrupting the community,” said student Natalie Galarza.
According to an article in The Sun, an incident occurred over the summer during the Lake Fire in the San Bernardino Mountains, in which fire fighting planes were grounded due to the interference of a drone that was flying dangerously close to the air tankers.
“Depending on how drones are operated, when helicopters are doing water drops, it hinders us from doing our jobs when drones are in the area because it creates unsafe flying conditions,” said Futscher.
After that incident, a news conference was held where federal forest officials warned drone owners not to fly over the fire. That incident kept firefighters from fighting the fire, which caused more acres to burn, according to The Sun.
“All airspace in the United States is controlled. The Federal Aviation Administration has regulations for drone operators. As long as you are flying your drone within guidelines it’s a safe hobby,” said Futscher.
According to the FAA, drones cannot be flown within five miles of an airport, and they cannot be used for commercial purposes.
“We recently had a near strike incident in Fontana near the old Rialto airport, where the drone was flying at 800 feet and our helicopter was flying at 700 feet,” said Futscher.
“Drones can definitely crash a helicopter,” continued Futscher.
This year the FAA released a smartphone app called “B4UFLY.”
The app was created to help drone hobbyists know if it is safe and legal to fly in their current or planned location.
According to the Washington Post, in 2014 drone sales reached over 53,000 units in the United States.
Officials estimate there will be over one million drones in the U.S. by the end of the year.
“All we want people to do is abide by what the FAA is asking them to do, so we can all be safe,” said Futscher.
For more information regarding the FAA’s drone operator regulations visit faa.gov/uas.