from New York Times
Jeremiah Johnson was flying his battery-powered drone above a park in Brooklyn on a recent weekend when he saw something in the distance.
Faster than you could say “speeding quadcopter,” Mr. Johnson, a design technologist, realized it was a small, remote-controlled aircraft just like his — and it was only about 150 feet away. “We were eyeing each other,” he said, “sizing each other up.”
Not long ago, drones were a relatively rare sight over New York City, usually piloted by photographers. But now drones are soaring as never before, deployed more and more by those who just love gadgets, as new models come on the market at lower and lower prices.
But their proliferation has also resulted in problems.
Two men were charged with reckless endangerment in July after the police said a drone they were flying in Upper Manhattan came within 800 feet of a New York Police Department helicopter near the George Washington Bridge.
Also in July, the Federal Aviation Administration opened an investigation into whether a drone sent aloft by the photographer at the wedding of Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York, in Cold Spring, N.Y., broke rules on airspace restrictions. Mr. Maloney, who is on the House subcommittee that oversees the F.A.A., said last week that he had been “amazed” by the technology “but wasn’t up to date on the lack of regulations around it.”
More recently, a building manager on the Upper West Side of Manhattan sent a stern email to residents. Do not even think of launching a drone from the building’s circular driveway, the July 14 email said before explaining that the last drone that had taken off from there had crashed on a neighbor’s terrace.
“Right now, unlike a manned-aircraft pilot who can get a license from the F.A.A., there’s no official training program for small drones,” said Brendan M. Schulman, a lawyer in Manhattan who represents a number of drone operators and enthusiasts. “What you’re seeing is popularity because they don’t require any particular expertise to get going. What you’re seeing is people buying these devices off the shelf and operating them without any experience or training because they’re easy to use.”
There are no specific regulations for local enforcement of drones in the city. Sgt. Brendan Ryan, a police spokesman, said the local law that covers drones is in a section of the city’s administrative code titled “aviation in and over the city.” “The circumstances determine the seriousness,” he said in an email. “Individuals could potentially be charged with reckless endangerment if, for example, it falls out of the sky, or unlawful surveillance, if one videotapes the inside of private property.”
On Sunday, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat from New York, said the city had turned into the Wild West for drones. He said it was time for new federal rules and urged the F.A.A., which is considering regulations for drones, to issue them by the end of the year.
Other officials have also expressed concern. In Lower Manhattan, Community Board 1’s quality of life committee discussed drones at a hearing convened after two reports of drones flying in or near a park, and after a member of the board saw a drone hovering outside an apartment in Battery Park City.
Unquestionably, affordability is one reason more drones are taking to the skies. Lower-priced models, some costing less than $80, have propelled drones beyond their early niche as specialized equipment for committed hobbyists and professional photographers. Drones are now what Mr. Schulman called “more of an impulse purchase” for many buyers.
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