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The Future of Hobby Drone Regulation Is Up in the Air

They're endangering aircraft and firefighters, but the FAA isn't stepping up. Who does that leave?
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Flickr/Don McCullough

Drones conjure up a Jekyll and Hyde duality. On the one hand, there are the silent killer Predators, lobbing bombs overseas and vanishing into the sky. On the other hand, drones on the homefront seem like harmless toys used by hobbyists to capture cool video footage from high above.

It turns out gentler drones get destructive in their own ways. With prices dropping the technology has proliferated—there are now swarms of them available for under $300. The most alarming effect of this rising availability became clear in a recent announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration: aircraft pilots have reported a record 650 drone sightings in 2015 so far, up from 238 sightings for all of 2014. Seeing a drone is just a step away from hitting one, and indeed drones have interfered with aerial firefighting efforts in California, and injured bystanders elsewhere by crashing into them.