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Proposed new remote ID laws will end recreational droning

Have you enjoyed the dozens of aerial photos and videos the COURIER has published over the last few years? These images may be a thing of the past if the FAA is allowed to implement new drone remote ID laws.

This may be good news for some people, but this plan will severely limit the number of recreational drones flown in the US.

Before any Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) or drone restrictions can be made law, the FAA writes a proposal to solicit feedback from the public, including industry leaders who use drones for agriculture, solar farms, inspecting utilities and fire departments, just to name a few. This feedback period is used to help formulate safe guidelines, while minimizing the impact to the $6 billion a year industry.

Drones can be a hot topic for some, especially since there are so many videos of crazy stunts from untrained people flying drones into all sorts of odd places. Most of these crashes are harmless. But for every one of these flights, there are literally thousands of safe missions conducted by people like myself.

These drone fail videos also serve to motivate the FAA to do something. Which is why its latest proposal to give every drone a transmitter for identification, is over 300 pages long. Unfortunately, this document only serves to discourage anyone from flying. What’s ironic is most pilots support use of remote IDs, but not when it’s designed to be big brother for the government. 

When equipped with an ID transmitter, a signal pinpointing the drone’s location is broadcast during flight to “any interested parties.” What does that mean? Because the flight data is shared with the public, it’s impossible to know who’s watching, or who’s stealing your data. For someone who has been attacked while flying a drone legally, this is not a good idea.

Drone makers like DJI would be responsible to add remote ID hardware, set up to comply with specific FAA guidelines. Keep in mind the majority of people flying recreationally are using toys, with very limited range. They cost only $100 to $200. This segment would be wiped off the map, so to speak, because of added costs and technical issues. And it gets worse. With remote ID, a third party would manage the system, sending the data using your cellphone.

This opens up all sorts of hacking and privacy issues by exposing personal data. The government will know the exact location of the drone and the pilot, at all times, while using your own cellphone signal.

So what happens with your old drone without remote ID? Tough luck, you can’t fly. At this point you have to buy a new drone. Want to fly in a remote area with no cell signal? Tough luck, the drone won’t fly. Technical issues or the system goes down? Tough luck, you’re grounded. Finally able to log in and get approval to fly? Great! Except your drone can only fly 400 feet away. That’s a ridiculously short distance, which defeats the entire purpose of using a drone. Especially for professionals.

Since at this point—although it’s early—the only method to comply with the new remote ID laws is to purchase a new drone equipped with the proper gear. The FAA offered to pinpoint areas for drones without remote ID to fly. Kind of like a practice field. Only problem is the closest area on average is 27 miles away.

There’s always the chance some of these restrictions might be eased or modified before becoming law. But it’s clear the FAA has decided the best way to manage drones is simply taking them out of the air. As for me, taking aerial pictures and video using a drone was an effective way to show Claremont from new angles or different perspectives. It’s become one of the most popular items we publish.

So what’s the solution? Set up remote ID to pinpoint locate air traffic in real time to give drone pilots more information to fly safer. It’s really that simple…and it should be seamless. Isn’t that really what we all want?

Claremont’s road repair

This may not mean much to a lot of people, but the city of Claremont has paved over the numerous tree roots protruding out of Claremont Boulevard, just south of Foothill. I considered this stretch of road to be in terrible condition, especially in one area heading south. If you drive a small car like I do, it could do some damage.

I mention this because one day about nine months ago, I took evasive action to avoid the root hazard by speeding up to pass the car on my right. This was a safer option than jamming on the brakes, only to get rear ended.

Unfortunately, a Claremont police officer was monitoring speed on Claremont Boulevard that day, and I was issued my first speeding ticket. The officer was very professional, but didn’t agree with my assessment of the situation. I went to court with photos and video, trying to show how dangerous this hazard was.

Turns out the judge agreed with the officer, but liked my effort and reduced the fine in half. Even the sheriff in court suggested I speak to the city about the issue. I don’t think my complaint got the road repaired, since this street was already on the city’s radar. But it’s an example of how gas tax money helped improve the streets of Claremont.

—Peter Weinberger

pweinberger@claremont-courier.com

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