Thousands comment on proposed drone regulations

The FAA is accepting public comments until late April

The Federal Aviation Administration has received over 2,000 comments on its proposed rules for commercial drone flights in the U.S.

The 2,000th comment was received Wednesday and hundreds more are likely to be filed before the deadline on April 24.

Some of the comments assail the FAA for allowing companies to fly drones, saying it will lead to noiser and more dangerous skies. Others ask the agency why it took so long for it to get this far.

The FAA proposed a broad set of rules that would allow companies to fly drones as long as they stick to several basic conditions: no higher than 500 feet, no faster than 100 miles per hour, and only during daylight.

Drones would have to be flown by a licensed operator -- a newly created certification -- and kept within visual line-of-sight. Drones would always have to give way to other air traffic and could not fly over people who aren't involved in their operation.

Announcing the proposed rules in February, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called it "an exciting day for aviation," although the feedback so far suggests that isn't a universally held view.

The FAA has to do more to ensure these gadgets don't pose noise, health and welfare risks to all citizens, rather than cater to the whims of hobbyists and commercial interests, wrote James Devlin of San Diego.

Many of the comments are from members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which prepared a template for its members to use. Those comments focus not so much on drones but on the effect the regulations would have on model aircraft enthusiasts.

A common theme from other commenters is privacy, although the FAA's proposal doesn't address that issue.

I believe everyone is entitled to their 'privacy' to an extent, but with a micro UAS [unmanned aircraft system], every citizen in the United States might feel there is a camera on them at all times, wrote Keith Imberger.

The White House has tasked the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to come up drone privacy rules, but earlier this week the Electronic Privacy Information Center asked an appeals court to force the FAA to formulate its own rules.

EPIC argues that congress mandated the FAA in 2012 to come up with a comprehensive plan for integration of drones into the national airspace.

"We are trying to hold the FAA responsible for that plan," said Jeramie Scott [cq], EIPC's National Security Counsel, on Thursday.

The proposed regulations can be found on the FAA website and public comments can be submitted through regulations.gov.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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