There is no shortage of videos featuring camera-equipped drones hovering high over downtown Dallas – including Charlie Kaye’s recently posted “Drone Dallas,” showcasing a sleepy city short on warm bodies. (Explains Kaye via email: “A lot of my shoots are early mornings, and there’s rarely anyone outside in danger of a falling aircraft.”) Below you’ll find just a few other more recent finds, including one from a quadcopter hovering above the 400-foot-tall Margaret Hunt Hill and Continental Avenue bridges, and another that scales and finally tops the 561-foot-tall Museum Tower. Seems like just last year that Brian Aiken’s “Dallas From Above” and its handful of sequels were rare and exotic birds.
Of course, far as the Federal Aviation Administration is concerned, none of them are sanctioned: “All of downtown Dallas is inside Class B airspace for DFW [Airport] and Dallas Love,” says Lynn Lunsford, the FAA’s Mid-States Public Affairs Manager, via email. “Nothing is supposed to fly in that area between the surface and 11,000 feet without permission of air traffic controllers.” And, says Lunsford, no one’s asked for permission. But that hasn’t grounded the aspiring filmmakers and what the FAA classified as “unmanned aircraft systems.”
We’ve been here before: Just last month a self-proclaimed “dumbass” lost his DJI Phantom Vision on top of AT&T Stadium, then sent another to go find it – after which he cruised high above Globe Life Park, Hurricane Harbor and downtown Dallas, topping the 561-foot-tall Reunion Tower in clear violation of the FAA’s 400-foot guidelines. Lunsford says that incident remains under investigation.
The FAA’s still reviewing its unmanned-aircraft rules and hoping to have new guidelines by year’s end, but for now, says Lunsford, the general rules are simple enough: “Not in controlled airspace, not over a populated are (this would include downtown), not above 400 feet, not for commercial purposes.” But at this point, it’s still likely easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
“As far as ‘punishment,’ our preference is education,” Lunsford responds when asked about possible penalties for those disregarding the guidelines. “If somebody endangers safety of others on the ground or in the air, we could seek enforcement action that could include civil penalties. … We are concerned about UAS use in general, but particularly in areas where such use could cause safety problems.”
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