When the owners of a Philadelphia company flew an 11-pound octocopter with a 3-by-12-foot advertising banner on the Strip in front of The Mirage’s volcano in July, they violated Federal Aviation Administration policy on unmanned aerial systems.
DroneCast drew quite a crowd as the aircraft hovered about 20 feet above the sidewalk for about an hour.
Raj Singh, DroneCast’s 19-year-old founder, was on the first day of a national media tour to promote what he considers to be a new frontier in advertising and promotion.
The Strip is a magnet for all things interesting and unique. So the drone was one more sideshow in a place that annually draws millions of visitors.
The FAA’s line in the sand differentiating commercial drones from model aircraft flown as a hobby is in its potential to make money.
There are other rules. Model aircraft can’t weigh more than 55 pounds, and the pilot must always maintain sight of the craft when it’s in the air.
When the FAA issued its July 15 notice, it included clarification on the difference between hobbyist flights and commercial drones.
A chart in the notice listed as acceptable “flying a model aircraft at a model aircraft club,” “taking photographs with a model aircraft for personal use,” “using a model aircraft to move a box from point to point without any kind of compensation” and “viewing a field to determine whether crops need water when they are grown for personal enjoyment” as examples of what constitutes appropriate model aircraft flying.
But it’s not a hobby when “receiving money for demonstrating aerobatics with a model aircraft,” “a Realtor using a model aircraft to photograph a property that he is trying to sell and using the photographs in the property’s real estate listing,” “delivering packages to people for a fee” and “determining whether crops need to be watered that are grown as part of a commercial farming operation.”
Other operators have flown drones on the Strip.
In May, Aerial Technology International and 360Hero flew an S800 drone above Las Vegas Boulevard at 3:30 a.m. A wide-angle camera was flown and shot video during the 2014 International VR Panoramic Photography Conference.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas also experimented with bottle delivery by drone at its pool, but regulators asked hotel management to shut down the service.
The biggest concern for regulators is the flying of aircraft near airports.
In a separate FAA posting, the agency issued a notice banning flights within 5 miles of an airport, but hobbyists disputed whether it had the authority to enforce such a ban. FAA officials say law enforcement authorities should be contacted if anyone is seen flying a model aircraft within 5 miles of an airport.
An area that isn’t under the FAA’s jurisdiction is flying indoors.
State officials are working to develop a network of convention facilities that could accommodate companies wanting to use an indoor drone test range.