Drone laws, regulations, concerns - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Drone laws, regulations, concerns

Drones are quickly growing in popularity. Whether it's for a hobby or a way to make money. More and more people are getting their hands on them. Whose who fly drones might run into a problem if they don't follow the regulations that have been put in place. Drones were a top selling gift this past holiday season. Now that a few months has passed, it seems there's a lot of confusion and questions when it comes to flying drones. If you don't know what safety guidelines you must follow, you could get slapped with a huge fine. NewsWest 9 wanted to break down the regulations set by the FAA. Unmanned aircrafts are taking off all over Texas, before you can get one up in the sky, you must register it with the FAA. That can easily be done online and the fee is just $5.00. Be sure to have your registration whenever you get your drone up in the air. That's only if your flying a drone as a hobby or for recreational flying. If you want to use your drone for commercial use or make a profit from flying them..the FAA requires much more extensive authorization that could take months. The FAA recommends that the hobbyist out there should take a lessons and learn to fly their drones safely, but it's not a requirement.

"I was a little bit surprised that the FAA hasn't issued any sort of legal training requirements yet. I do think all users need to come and get some form or fashion of training," said Ty Mackey, a local pilot and owner of OmniAERO aviation services. 

It's also important to know that you cannot fly your drone higher than 400 feet. That's about as high as a 35 story building. Maybe most importantly, you cannot interfere with any manned aircraft. You must be at least five miles from any airport. Attorneys say even with all these regulations and guidelines, there is still a lot of gray area with drone laws.

"I think it is an area of the law that is, it's just unsettled. Nobody knows exactly what it is," said Gerald Fugit, a local attorney. 

He says attorneys get involved when someone gets hurt, and or property is left damage.

"It's obvious. There's going to be drones that malfunction and fall on people. There's going to be drones that fall property. There's going to be drones that are going to probably start forest fires," said Fugit. 

Drones also pose a danger to jets like these. Pilots tell me that if they encounter one, there could be a deadly outcome. With drones growing in popularity, it's something they always have to be on the lookout for.

"Understand the air space that's out there and they can coordinate with airplanes so that we can all work together easily," said Mackey. 

Another concern brought up is privacy. If you're not happy someone is flying a drone over your home, well you might be out of luck.

"The actual air space is controlled by the federal government. To say 'well they're invading my privacy', that will no longer be given as a legal excuse," said Fugit.

If you're worried a drone is being used to take video or pictures of you, the FAA has a regulation for that too. If those flying the drone don't have consent from the property owner to take video or capture images, they will likely be given a $500 fine. If images are distributed or displayed, that's 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. 

"They're are all sorts of things that are being, that will develop as a matter of drones," said Fugit.

When it comes to federal penalties for not registering your drone, the FAA can fine you $27,000 for a civil penalty, and $250,000 for a criminal penalty. 

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