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Commercial drones taking off

Published: September 1, 2015

More than 1,300 businesses and individuals have received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate drones commercially. Applications range from line inspection to promoting real estate.


Rose Mooney, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, which is conducting FAA-sanctioned drone tests, offers examples such as search-and-rescue, roof inspection, and traffic reporting as everyday tasks suited to drones. She says these are first steps in making drones “the next pioneering technology in aviation.”


However, the development of commercial drones may be hindered by a growing number of incidents of drones flying too close to other aircraft. The FAA says there have been more than 700 such reports by airline pilots in 2015. Expressing concern over the current trend, FAA chief Michael Huerta says, “There are a lot of people operating unmanned aircraft with little or no aviation experience. They're buying them at hobby shops. They're buying them at camera stores. So the whole concept of what are the rules of the air is a very new thing to them.”


The FAA is testing an app called “b4ufly” that will inform users if they are operating in restricted airspace, such as within 5 miles of an airport or above 400 feet.


After a drone wafted onto the South Lawn of the White House last January, its manufacturer, DJI, updated its operating system to prevent flight in restricted airspace. Lawmakers have called for similar measures on all drones.
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