FAA, industry to holiday drone users: ‘Know before you fly’

FAA, industry to holiday drone users: ‘Know before you fly’
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The Federal Aviation Administration is partnering with drone groups in Washington to warn holiday drone users of regulations involving the unmanned aircraft. 

The group said the campaign, which has been dubbed “Know Before You Fly,” is aimed at providing “prospective [drone] operators with the information and guidance they need to fly safely and responsibly.

"There is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm around [drones], and the technology is becoming the must-have holiday gift,” Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), said in a statement. “The ‘Know Before You Fly’ campaign fills a critical education gap just in time for the holiday season. We want to ensure that all prospective operators have the tools they need to fly safely and responsibly.” 

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The unmanned vehicle association is joining the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and the Small UAV Coalition in partnering with the FAA on the drone awareness campaign. 

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency is “proud to be partnering with AUVSI, AMA and the Small UAV Coalition in spreading the word about ways to fly safely and responsibly. 

“We often say that safety is a shared responsibility,” Huerta said in a statement. “The ‘Know Before You Fly’ campaign allows us to harness the resources and expertise of industry as we strive to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.”

The FAA has been facing increased pressure to approve a rapid expansion of nonmilitary drone use. Congress has given agency until September 2015 to finalize new rules for the unmanned aircraft. 

The FAA has been testing the interaction between drones and other types of commercial and private airplanes at multiple sites across the country. 

The pressure on the FAA to quickly approve drones is being ramped up in part because online companies, such as Amazon, have said they could be used to speed up delivery times. 

Police and other law enforcement groups are also seeking approval to use the technology, and the FAA has also investigated several drone incidents that occurred in conjunction with college and professional sporting events.

The potential for increased use of drones has drawn criticism from privacy advocates, who have raised concerns about surveillance.

Small UAV Coalition Executive Director Michael Drobac said it was important to remind drone users of the current rules for unmanned flight around the holidays this year, even though the FAA is mulling a drastic expansion in the near future. 

"Often people who purchase [drones] for recreational use in stores or online are unaware of the existing safety guidelines,” he said. “Our hope is that this campaign will make that information more accessible to the legions of flyers taking to the skies, ensuring safety for all aircraft, both manned and unmanned.”