FAA Warns Drone Hobbyist and YouTuber

March 19, 2015  - By

So, you know it’s illegal to fly drones in the United States for commercial purposes unless you have a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exemption and Certificate of Authorization and Waiver (CoA), right?

That means you can’t fly drones if it’s related to business, no matter if you charge a fee or not. But, you can fly drones in the United States as a “hobbyist” as long as you adhere to certain rules (such as flying lower than 400 feet above the ground).

In a new twist, the FAA has cracked down on at least one person who posted a drone video on YouTube because YouTube generates revenue, reports the website Motherboard. Even though it appears the drone was being flown by a hobbyist for recreational purposes, it smells to the FAA like a commercial use of drone. Even though the hobbyist isn’t generating revenue from it, Google is.

Jason Hanes' Youtube Channel

Jason Hanes’ YouTube channel.

While it appears the U.S. drone community is going nuts using drones for all kinds of non-commercial and commercial purposes, despite the FAA rules, it appears there are too many violators for the FAA to chase after since enforcement notices sent by the FAA have been few and far between. In this case, safety concerns may have been the prompt. The FAA says it’s now looking further into how its safety inspectors send letters like this. Read more about the case at the Motherboard website.

Geospatial Data Interest Crosses Political Party Lines

Senator’s Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced the Geospatial Reform Act, targeted at leveraging geospatial data acquired by the U.S. federal government. This bill argues that the federal government is the largest purchaser of geospatial data, yet agencies aren’t required to report details of geospatial data purchased. The bill aims to change that.

“Geospatial data has endless possibilities for transforming both the private and public sectors — from helping local governments develop emergency preparedness plans to fueling the creation of apps that let you find parking spots, restaurants, and even homes for sale based on where you’re standing,” said Sen. Warner. “The federal government is the largest purchaser of geospatial data but some very basic questions about how and where agencies are already investing in this data can’t be answered. Our bill would bring transparency and accountability to the collection of this data and ensure that taxpayer dollars are not being wasted on duplicative efforts.”

Sen. Warner and Hatch issued a joint statement about the bill.

DigitalGlobe Offers Commercial 30-cm Resolution Satellite Imagery

In what DigitalGlobe claims is a world’s first, the company began offering commercial 30-cm satellite imagery via its WorldView-3 satellite, which was launched August 13, 2014. DigitalGlobe announced that the imagery is available worldwide (with some restrictions). As part of its press release, DigitalGlobe offered the following quote from PhotoSat, a consumer of imagery.

“DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite data is the highest quality satellite photo data that PhotoSat has ever processed,” said Gerry Mitchell, President of PhotoSat, a leading satellite elevation mapping provider for energy, mining, and engineering firms. “In one test, an elevation mapping grid extracted from stereo WorldView-3 satellite photos matched a highly accurate LiDAR elevation grid to better than 15 cm in elevation. This result takes satellite elevation mapping into the engineering design and construction markets and directly competes with LiDAR and high resolution air photo mapping for applications like flood plain monitoring.”

According to DigitalGlobe, WorldView-3 is the first and only commercial imaging satellite capable of collecting imagery with 30-cm ground sample distance, and claims it is five times the detail of the company’s nearest competitor. See a sample by clicking here.

Satellite imagery is approaching aerial photogrammetry quality. I recall Lawrie Jordan, founder of ERDAS (sold to Leica) and now director of imagery at Esri, saying that eventually every square inch of the earth will be imaged constantly by satellite.

Esri and Drone Data Up until now, you haven’t heard the words “Esri” and “drone” mentioned in the same sentence very often. Last week at the Esri Developer Summit in Palm Springs, Esri provided a live map-creation demo using a small quadcopter.

Look for a follow-up article, data example and possibly a video of the event.

Thanks, and see you next month.

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About the Author: Eric Gakstatter

Eric Gakstatter has been involved in the GPS/GNSS industry for more than 20 years. For 10 years, he held several product management positions in the GPS/GNSS industry, managing the development of several medium- and high-precision GNSS products along with associated data-collection and post-processing software. Since 2000, he's been a power user of GPS/GNSS technology as well as consulted with capital management companies; federal, state and local government agencies; and private companies on the application and/or development of GPS technology. Since 2006, he's been a contributor to GPS World magazine, serving as editor of the monthly Survey Scene newsletter until 2015, and as editor of Geospatial Solutions monthly newsletter for GPS World's sister site Geospatial Solutions, which focuses on GIS and geospatial technologies.