When I was a kid, there were balsa wood model airplanes powered by a rubber band, that flew a short distance. Okay, maybe that's "stretching" the point. But there have also been radio-controlled model airplanes that run on small ICE engines, for many decades, that never seem to have elicited indignation.
I'm not sure at what point these contraptions become something to be obsessive about, although I suppose at some point obsessing is justifiable.
A kid taking pictures from a model airplane, in effect, is not too worrisome, unless the thing crashes and breaks something. Perhaps the small fine reflects this.
This article does bring up many concerns regarding the use of drones by hobbyists -legal and ethical. Privacy these days is a mirage! We know there are satellites watching us from the sky, video surveillance is pervasive and now we have invading cameras mounted on Quadcopters to get even more up close and personal :-(
The paparazzis in Hollywood must be salivating now that their options are many! They don't have to chase the celebrities any more -their drones can do it for them! And they can sweep down low and snoop sitting in their cars!
As for me, I will be content to taking a Dronie, i.e., a selfie from a Drone... and don't intend to go beyond that!
Not only model airplanes, but also model rockets have been able to take photos from a few hundred feet above ground level for many years. Perhaps it is the privacy aspects of drones with onboard HD video cameras rather than any actual danger to aircraft or to the public that has governments in a tailspin over this.
Model airplanes in my day were fragile, and took a long time to build. You never flew them on windy days, or in the clouds or rain. They certainly never had cameras, or other sensors.
Today with most flying devices, cameras are no big deal, and quite common. Like any other situation, what you do with images of people matters. You cannot film people on the street and use that commercially without their permission. You may show it in your home, with minimal repercussions.
Drone operators and manufacturers always talk about how perfect their devices are. Drones are pretty good when new and well taken care of. They are easy to control on days when the sun is bright and the winds are calm. Over time the batteries become weak, and various parts wear, making the device less stable and harder to fly. Throw in some wind, rain and turbulence and they are much more difficult to control, and may pose a bigger threat to the innocent people below.
There are talk about minimum altitudes, but aircraft may be operating in the same airspace as the drone. Imagine a traffic accident, with various news helicopters or medical aircraft in the area, and the drone will be operating right with them. It is important that any aircraft operating in the vicinity of another aircraft operate using the same rules, just so they stay out of each others way.
Training and certification is going to have to happen before drone operations can be performed on a wide scale. Pilots, operators and aircraft are going to have to know what it takes to keep drone operations safe. Maintenance programs are going to have to be established, and certified. It won't be the wild west.
"Have you wondered who really owns above your garden and who owns below your garden?"
In many places, the mineral rights - essentially, the ground underneath - are owned by someone other than the home owner. The US government has sold portions of the RF spectrum. In the state that I live in, all shorelines are deemed public, however in many states, they can be bought and sold.
How long until the government, or large land owners start to sell air space rights, in the same way that mineral rights can be sold?
Welcome Bob. So there's more? Okey Dokey! Let's face it, we want to see spectacular crashes. I see a model helicoptor demolition derby in our near future. With very flyable $49 helos, there could be one in a town near you soon!
Drones are, in essence, flying autonomous vehicles. Pros and cons surrounding drones today might well foreshadow the debate over the development of self-driving cars. In the context of a strongly regulated aviation industry, "self-flying" drones pose a fresh challenge. How safe is it to fly drones in different environments? Should drones be required for visual line of sight – as are piloted airplanes? Join EE Times' Junko Yoshida as she moderates a panel of drone experts.