Illegal fireworks show in SF captured by drone

Many drone operators say the Federal Aviation Administration isn't coming up with rules fast enough to keep up with the technology.
Monday, July 07, 2014
If you've ever been to a Disney theme park, you know all about their nightly fireworks show -- but you've probably never seen it from the air before. Until fairly recently, almost nobody had because there weren't private drones to capture that kind of aerial footage. Now there are and that development is causing some confusion and concern.

Quad copters (or drones) are getting smaller and smaller, and easier to control. Some people are even building them from scratch. The problem is that the Federal Aviation Administration is not coming up with rules fast enough to keep up with the technology.

Filmmaker Eddie Codel decided to send up his quad copter on July 4th to shoot video of the unofficial fireworks display over the Mission District. He wanted to be very clear with ABC7 News and said his video was taken for hobby purposes only.

"The FAA has basically said that there's no commercial use of these drones right now. They're figuring out the regulations but currently, if you were to fly them commercially, you would be breaking their law, or their regulations," Codel said.

The problem is videos like this one that has racked up over 6.6 million views since it was shot in May 2013, of fireworks over Disney World Florida. It's been licensed by Go Pro which raises the question -- what's a "commercial use?"

"If you're a farmer and you're doing barrel rolls with your quad copter for fun, that's totally cool. But if you're using that same quad copter to go over your crops and kind of get a sense of where it needs watering or more fertilizer, that's a commercial use and that would be considered illegal," Codel explained.

Beto Lopez shot some video last year of the fireworks over Aquatic Park in San Francisco. He had been hoping to start earning money by getting aerial shots for real estate agents, but he was recently cited for flying his quad copter over Ocean Beach.

"I've actually lost several days of work because I'm thinking I'm in big, big, big trouble. Because, from what I was reading, Googling, there was a guy, he was fined for flying over Treasure Island, $10,000," Lopez said.

He was cited by a National Parks police officer because Ocean Beach is federal park land. Just last week, the National Park Service issued a temporary ban on the use of all remote-controlled aircraft in their jurisdiction. It's temporary, because the FAA is the final authority and that agency is still working on regulating all these small aircraft.

"I know they're working on these laws that will be passed after 2015, but why now? Just come after everybody without a warning," Lopez said.

Operators say the government is simply not moving fast enough for these new technologies.
Related Topics:
technology airplane drones regulations laws fireworks 4th of july crime disney disneyland Ocean Beach Mission District San Francisco
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