Pressure on FAA for drone regulations

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Pressure is mounting on the FAA to come up with new regulations on the use of small unmanned aircraft systems, commonly called drones.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer has gone so far as to call drone use potentially deadly.

There have been at least two instances of drones spotted flying above the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. He says Buffalo air travelers were put at serious risk.  One of the drones was spotted 2,000 feet above two runways.

“No one knew where it came from, who was behind the controls, or why it was there in the first place,” the Senator said.

Drone regulations have been in a “holding pattern” for two years now. New regulations would allow local police to partner with federal authorities when threatening drone incidents occur.

NFTA Transit police officer Dave Capretto brought his own $3,000 quad copter for a demonstration during the Senator’s news conference at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Monday.

Capretto wants the FAA to allow police departments to use drones for all sorts of reasons.

He said, “If you have people that walk away that have dementia, or you have children with autism that would leave an area, you can get up instantaneously once you’re there. Within five minutes, where a helicopter, it would take about an hour and a half.”

Senator Schumer says he knows how drones can be put to good use but that new regulations are needed quickly to guard against those whose intentions might not be so good.

“We just don’t want it to ruin the hobby for all the other enthusiasts,” said Greg Arnone of Field’s Hobby Shop in Cheektowaga. “That’s the main thing we’re worried about, is people using them for the wrong reason.”

While many would welcome regulations to protect the public’s safety and security, model plane enthusiasts fear the FAA might go too far.

Mike Anderson, a model airplane instructor, said “We’ve been at this since 9/11, and for the past five years it’s just been getting heavier and heavier in what the FAA wants to do. Basically, shut us down.”

But others, like film maker Jim Grimaldi, who used drones to document the recent lake effect snow storms that hit western New York, are hoping new regulations might be less restrictive. Right now Grimaldi says he cannot be compensated for commercial footage he shoots using drones.

“The FAA would sue me,” he said. “If I made money from this, in their words, I would be interfering with commercial air space.”

Senator Schumer does not want a ban on drones, but says there ought to be rules. “Even those who operate these drones, the hobbyists and others, want rules, so they know, what, when, and how to use them.”

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