Drone users wait for new rules from FAA

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Congress has given the Federal Aviation Administration until the end of this year to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system.

Tim Teach is trying to start a business called “Buffalo Skycam,” which aims to sell video show from his drone that is not much bigger than a laptop computer.

“The angles, the perspectives, seeing something for the very first time that you may have seen a thousand times from that one different perspective can change your whole outlook on it,” he said.”

For now the FAA still regulates them as model aircraft. They’re not allowed to go any higher than 400 feet, must be flown at least three miles from any airport, and not in populated areas, and drones cannot be used for commercial purposes.

Teach is hoping the FAA doesn’t stop him from selling video from his drone.

“I would think they have bigger fish to fry.”

Right now, anyone can buy a drone this size with a camera for about a thousand dollars, but the military is taking these to a whole new level.

“Approximately a year and a half ago, we got assigned a new mission,” said Colonel Robert Kilgore, Vice Wing Commander of the 107th Airlift Wing in Niagara Falls.

The 107Th Airlift Wing out of Niagara Falls is focused less on mid-air re-fuleing, and more on what they prefer to call “Remotely Piloted Aircraft.” These local airmen and women began training last fall in an operations center near Syracuse to fly the MQ-9 Reaper.

“It’s not like anything I’ve ever done,” said Kilgore, who was used to flying regular planes for 25 years. “The basic principles are all the same but because you’re not in the actual aircraft, you lose a lot of the pilot feel, the old stick and rudder skills.”

It’ll be at least a year before Niagara Falls Air Base has its own operational center, and it’ll probably go in one of the existing buildings.

Some have protested at the Air Base saying drone warfare allows for more indiscriminate killing because no military bodies are actually in the aircraft. Kilgore disputes that.

“This is not indiscriminate at all. This is a much controlled organized weapon system. We can fly these things safely anywhere.”

He says 90 percent of the military use of these is for surveillance.

“We have tremendous ability to loiter over an area and watch it for a long period of time.”

North Dakota has a new test site for other kinds of drones. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says that during the summer, “Dragonflyer” will collect data to make an automated count of the state’s deer, elk and bison populations.

And Amazon has high hopes of delivering packages someday with drones, but is still waiting for FAA clarification.

“It’s now getting into our daily lives,” said former Amherst Supervisor Dan Ward, who is urging the town to draft a local law regulating drones.

“When we’re getting into surveillance situations where private individuals or government, with the aid of private individuals, can just surveil people 24/7 by some kind of device that’s up there, I don’t think that’s what America’s all about.”

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