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FAA wants to require a pilot’s license to operate a tiny camera drone

AP photo

AP photo

Tiny remote-controlled drones have millions of uses. TGI Fridays uses them as mistletoe kiss cams. Martha Stewart uses them to check out her landscaping (“Imagine what Louis XIV could have accomplished at Versailles if he’d had one,” she gushes.) We’re all just waiting for the day when Amazon can start using them for deliveries.

But a federal law could change all of that.

The government is considering requiring that any of these small drone-owners, from wedding photographers and real estate agents to Martha herself, obtain pilot licenses to man them.

That licensing could cost drone-operators up to $10,000, according to a write-up in the Washington Post. That’s an astronomical increase from the price of simply buying the drone for around $1,000, as customers currently can.

It also means dozens of wasted hours learning how to fly manned aircraft, all in order to operate by remote-control what is essentially a little model airplane that weighs no more than a few pounds, and stays in the air for about 25 minutes.

The FAA has long been expected to start regulating drone use more tightly, but was not expected to lump a huge range of drone-sizes together. The proposed regulation would require the same licensing for pocket-sized drones as for their up-to-55-pound counterparts.

After conducting a survey of business owners, Colin Snow of Drone Analyst concluded that the overall market for these types of drones “would basically die if unfavorable regulations come into being.”

Jesse Kallman, regulatory affairs head for drone software company Airware, told the Wall Street Journal that the unnecessary flight training “will end up excluding someone who has hundreds of hours of experience on an unmanned aircraft in favor of a pilot who understands how to operate a Cessna but not an unmanned aircraft.”

The FAA could set out a tentative plan by next month, which would then leave a year or more for the regulations to take hold. That’s leaving countless business owners stalling their business plans, uncertain of what their operating costs could be in the near future.

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