Pirker became one of the first targets of the FAA’s ambiguous policies regarding UAV flight after the agency dropped a $10,000 fine on the Swiss-Austrian drone videographer for flying a camera-laden drone over the University of Virginia in 2011. Pirker took the FAA to court and a federal judge overturned the ruling, leading to yet another appeal by the agency.
Today, Pirker can fly his drones without fear of government harassment after moving to Hong Kong last year.
“The laws are pretty good because we fly for fun. Hobbyists are pretty much excluded from the regulations that would require us to seek permission to fly anywhere else,” Pirker told the South China Morning Post in a recent interview.
In nearby Kowloon, Pirker runs Team Blacksheep, a company that has taken breathtaking imagery all over the world. Pirker said he moved the company to China to “take advantage of ‘hands off laws.’”
The Post notes that one of Pirker’s most inspiring shoots is an aerial, overhead view of the giant Tian Tan Buddha, a 112-foot tall statue.
Since government regulations only require a per-flight permit for “non-commercial drones weighing [more than] seven kilograms,” hobbyists flying lighter UAVs (the bulk of most retail-level drones) can soar over Hong Kong free of red tape and government harassment.
Aerial cinematographer Jeffrey Kim told the Post that the availability of lighter drones will allow his company to blossom.
“Every time I get a job, I have to apply for a permit [for heavier drones] and it takes 28 days, and a lot of jobs are missed primarily because the client can’t wait or doesn’t plan that far ahead.”
Pirker estimates there are more than 5,000 drone hobbyists in Hong Kong and more growth is expected.
And the skies over the urban jungle that is Hong Kong will probably be abuzz with more and more drones, as the Post reports, “even the government has acknowledged the aircraft are becoming “more popular and versatile.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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