Downtown Amherst from 396 feet
The long awaited FAA rules for professional use of small unmanned aircraft systems aka drones will go into effect in late August. The major concession that created a collective sigh of relief among us responsible users is loosening the silly requirement that operators have a commercial pilots license.
But additional training and certification in aeronautics is required, which is probably not a bad thing depending on cost of certification and degree of difficulty with the syllabus.
The other rules are pretty much the same as announced last year when registration was first required: keep it under 400 feet, in visual sight and do not fly directly over large crowds.
Maybe when drones go mainstream -- if indeed they haven't already -- people will relax and realize what wonderful tools they can be.
My Facebook page threw up one of those "memories from last year" this morning as I was working on this article that showed me hand catching my baby after a photo shoot in North Amherst center done at the request of outgoing Planner Jeff Bagg (who took the photo).
Drone shoot for Planning Dept public hearing on North Amherst center realignment
A couple of weeks ago I covered the spectacular fire at Alpine Commons and specifically asked Assistant Chief Stromgren if it was okay to put my eye in the sky.
He not only gave me permission but brought it to the attention of Chief Nelson who came over and requested I get a better view of the roof, which was then belching smoke and flames from a fire that had too big a head start.
Demonstrating his vast experience Chief Nelson almost instantly ascertained "the roof is gone" and pulled his firefighters out of the building. Not much later a section of the roof collapsed.
He then sent me over to Engine 2 to show my live feed from above to better direct the 1,000 gallon per minute water attack.
Like any tool they can be misused. When an irresponsible user crashed a Phantom 2 on the White House lawn the company upgraded their firmware to geofence Washington D.C. as they previously had done will all commercial airports so their drones will not even fly.
And their drones have a built in fail safe so if the battery gets too low or the transmitter control signal is lost it will use GPS to return to the original take off point, land and shut off. Sort of like an intelligent boomerang.
So when you see someone controlling a drone on public property covering a public event do not come up to them and challenge them about a license or registration. Chances are they have one.
I often wonder if those same people go up to a person who just parked their car at a public meter and ask them if they have a license to drive?
Sweetser Park Amherst Community Band concert shot from APD front lawn
Last week I had two gentlemen challenge me while covering two different public events in the downtown, one of which I used the front lawn of the police station as my launch pad/control space.
"Are you registered to use that thing", he snarled. "Yes", I responded. "Do the police know you use that damn thing?" "Yes" I responded. He stormed off, obviously disappointed.
Interim Chamber Director Jerry Guidera caught me covering The Taste of Amherst
Although I have to admit negative interactions with the general public are probably only one-in-ten, but those other nine enthusiastically asking questions while my bird is in the air are equally distracting.