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Prospect of a million new drones this Christmas raises eyebrows at FAA

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Lu Yao / Shutterstock
The skies over America are set to get a lot noisier this holiday season with around a million new quadcopters expected to be unwrapped at the end of the year.

The prospect of so many untrained hobbyists send their remotely controlled machines skyward is causing some serious concern at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which so far this year has had to deal with reports of hundreds of near misses between manned planes and drones.

With the technology gaining more exposure, and costs coming down, it’s a dead cert the flying machines will be one of the most popular gifts this coming holiday season. And while the vast majority of people are sensible enough to consult their gray matter when it comes to working out the safest way – and place – to have fun with their copter, there’s always a few bozos ready to spoil the party.

Voicing concern during the Airlines for America Commercial Aviation Industry Summit in DC this week, FAA official Rich Swayze said the agency was “trying to get out and educate people about potential dangers” of drones ahead of the holiday season, Aviation Week reported. “A lot of people who don’t have a pilot background are operating these things in the airspace,” Swayze said.

FAA action includes advising Walmart sales personnel on key safety points to pass on to consumers to ensure proper operation of the unmanned aerial vehicles. The retail giant currently offers dozens of drones or similar machines, some for as little as $20.

Also speaking at the conference, Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley called quadcopters “a very serious issue,” adding, “There’s considerable concern that it’s going to end in tears.”

Know Before You Fly

Hoping to grab the attention of new hobbyist drone operators last Christmas, the FAA launched its “Know Before You Fly” video (above) on how to enjoy the machines without the worry of having it crash onto someone’s head or, in a worst case scenario, bringing down a much bigger aircraft.

Safe operation includes keeping your flying machine below 400 feet and within sight at all times, and well away from airports and crowds. The FAA also recommends joining a flying club if there’s one nearby, and to always inspect your aircraft before take-off. Happy flying!

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