Even the Sky Has Limits: Learn the Drone Laws

Drone industry leaders launch new public safety campaign — but will it work?

Major drone industry players, led by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, this week launched a new marketing campaigned aimed at educating the public on drone laws.

The new advertising campaign is titled “Even the Sky Has Limits: Learn the Drone Laws.” It’s primarily a website that aims to clarify the confusing (and often changing) drone laws. Ads for the campaign will also run on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, according to a news release.

The”Even the Sky Has Limits: Learn the Drone Laws” campaign is a new initiative that is part of Know Before You Fly, another marketing campaign which was created in 2014 with a similar goal to help drone pilots learn what the drone laws are.

Here are some of the ads you can expect to see under the new drone campaign:

The ‘Sky Has Limits’ campaign is primarily funded by AMA, as well as the Consumer Technology Association, AUVSI, the Toy Association, EAA, AOPA and the American Association of Airport Executives.

The big question here is: will it work? While Know Before You Fly certainly has had success and has proven useful to many, countless other drone pilots still break the rules — knowingly or not. Searches on social media provide evidence of plenty of illegal drone flights, such as these likely unauthorized flights in Yosemite.

Drone detection companies like Dedrone have reported hundreds of unauthorized drone flights. Data provided by Dedrone ahead of the PGA Tour showed about three dozen “drone intrusions” on one day near the Scottsdale, Ariz. golf course that was hosting the event. (Most drone flights near that golf course are illegal since it is near an airport).

And even commercial pilots are vague on the rules. In one of just about a half dozen “Part 107” violations documented by the FAA, a pilot with a remote Pilot Certificate was flying a drone over a crowd at the Dogwood Festival at a middle school in Camdenton, Mo., in June 2017. He said he wasn’t entirely sure whether it was legal to fly drones over crowds so his friend, a police officer, contacted the FAA. The FAA contacted him a few days later to clarify that it was illegal, and sent along a warning notice.

Personally, I’m not optimistic the new campaign makes the rules anymore clear to a new pilot who just picked up a drone on Amazon and wants to know what the rules are.

Here’s what the homepage of the new campaign states:

Putting myself in the shoes of a new pilot, this doesn’t seem clear to me. Do I follow Part 107? Part 101? Am I operating within the programming of a community based organization? If I just bought a drone, then I likely have no idea what AMA is, and would be inclined to think not. So does that put me under Part 107? (Answer: unless you are operating for a commercial reason, then no).

Let me preface this by saying that ANY attempt to educate new drone pilots on the rules is something I endorse. I’ve fielded so many questions that seem obvious to us in the drone industry, but are unclear to newbies.

My worry here is that for many new drone pilots, this new campaign further complicates things. I’d like to see things simplified and more broadly distributed, rather than a creation of another campaign saying essentially what the “Know Before You Fly” site already did.

Given that drones pilots are breaking the law — knowingly or not — some private businesses are taking it upon themselves to look for ways to better educate the public on drone laws.

DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturer, launched an eight-question knowledge quiz, which its app forces new users to pass before they can take off on their first flight.

I hope the new campaign from Know Before You Fly works. Drone pilots flying in unsafe situations without knowledge of the airspace continues to damage the industry, prompting lawmakers to create more legislation outlawing drones. The question is — is a new website and ads on social media enough to work?

What do you think is the best way to educate the public on flying drones safely and legally? Leave a comment below!

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