Drones have become part of life. From photography to racing, to delivering packages quickly, or delivering blood to areas that could otherwise not be reached. Last June, the FAA finalized rules allowing the commercial use of drones (they were not allowed for commercial use before, only personal), but with some restrictions. One of the new requirements was the registration of those drones and their pilots. All my drones are now properly registered and labeled...
However, for the most part, drones remain somewhat unregulated, and so is drone flying. It is hard to regulate something you can buy in a hobby shop for $49, and it's hard to think of it as a dangerous aircraft.
Yesterday, the FAA issued general Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) around the NRG Stadium in downtown Houston for Super Bowl Sunday, February 5th, from 4pm to midnight. The TFR stretches a good 34.5 miles radius area from the stadium.
As a pilot of full-size planes (you know, the ones you sit inside...), you are required to check NOTAMs (NOtice To AirMen) published by the FAA, prior to your flight, which would warn you about any restrictions or special circumstances that would prevent you from flying in certain areas. There are aeronautic sectional maps (charts) that inform you of areas to avoid in general (for example, nuclear power stations). But as a drone pilot, you are not required to check any map or any other information source, which begs the question--how should drone pilots learn that they cannot fly over, or anywhere near the Super Bowl?
The FAA created this 20-second video (above), as well as promoted the restrictions on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the FAA website. Still, it begs the question whether drone pilots would know about those restrictions and thus avoid flying within the TFR zone. We'll know Sunday night.
This issue only illustrates the predicament of the government regulating technology that becomes more and more capable, both of good and malicious use.