We have said before that the commercial drones industry is the new wild west of technology. This is the case all over the world. As if to complete our analogy, the Australian publication the Gold Coast Bulletin has named the first “Cowboy Drone Operators.”
Actually, they are less the cattle-herding cattle type and more the Billy Claiborne outlaw type.
The headline of the report in the Gold Coast Bulletin read “Cowboy Drone Operators Fly the Aircraft Illegally, Crossing into Protect Airspace and Smashing into Homes, Vehicles and People.”
There are plenty of examples of these incidents. Sometimes, they end up bloody. But, unlike the delinquents at the O.K. Corral, the intent of these new-age outlaws is far from malicious; its simply ignorance and inexperience.
For example, a license is required to legally fly a commercial drone in Australia, but it doesn’t take a license to fly.
“We have problems with a whole bunch of unlicensed operators who are trying their hand in the real estate industry,” Greg Weatherall owner of Platinum Drones added to the report. “The biggest issue is they’ll tell you they are licensed and insured, when they are not. Many have very little experience or understanding of their machines. If something happens, the person that hires an unlicensed pilot is legally responsible. Fines will go to the operator and the people hiring them.”
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is much farther along in the process of adopting rules for the use of UAS than the FAA. But, like the FAA, “CASA has limited power to be able to police it [UAS]” Shorten said.
“And they seem to spend more time policing certified people than proactively getting illegal operators.”
On the other hand, our FAA seems to spend more time policing illegal operators than proactively certifying people… or at least coming up with rules to certify them.
Neither of these approaches appear to be working.
The point is, this trouble in Australia isn’t an isolated case: plenty of people are flying commercially in the U.S. without a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the FAA. Some have even received a cease and desist and continued flying anyway.
Most people have never heard of a COA. Getting one is a complicated process that takes time and money. And, according to several underwriters (including ours), you don’t need one to get drone insurance.
So, if Amazon can ship someone a drone over night, and they could start making money off of it tomorrow, you could see why many would forego the COA and embrace technologies new Wild West.
Whatever a pilot’s motivation, until the FAA and the CASA take to finalize rules, the more commonplace “Cowboy Drone Operators” will become.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com