A new group dedicated to representing the interests of responsible drone pilots, and ensuring their voices are heard as local and state regulatory frameworks evolve, has been created. It’s called NODE – the Network of Drone Enthusiasts. And its goal is to “collaborate with local legislators across America on developing consistent, reasonable and effective drone regulations that encourage the enjoyment and benefits of drones while protecting public safety,” according to a news release.
It’s an important move, and one TDC strongly endorses. Because the reality is, the way rules have been developing across the United States has been mixed and, one could argue, contradictory.
On the one hand, the FAA has opened the skies to safe and responsible drone flight by creating a set of clear-cut and sensible rules: Don’t fly too high, don’t fly near airports or in other restricted areas, don’t fly over people. In short, use common sense and be safe. These same guidelines are the essence of the Part 107 rule, which has allowed commercial operators to really get rolling, providing they pass a written test demonstrating they understand the rules and US airspace.
But while that has been happening at the national level, it’s been a very different scene at the local level. Many states, counties, and even individual cities have been creating their own bylaws or regulations that are often inconsistent with or in direct conflict with the FAA rules.
Many places where people used to be able to fly their drones freely now have drone “bans” in place. The sense, often reflected in frustration within Facebook groups and on various drone forums, is that there’s a backlash based on sensational media reports, a lack of clear education about what drones can and can’t do, and somewhat misplaced concerns over privacy and the ability of consumer drones to be used as surveillance or spying devices.
(Plus, and this is also a reality, there’s a small minority of pilots who do stupid things with drones and really tarnish the reputation of the responsible majority.)
While these new restrictions and bans have been taking place at the state and local level, there’s been a lack of a national voice on behalf of those using drones responsibly. NODE aims to fill this vacuum, and it welcomes anyone with an interest in safe drone flying to join its ranks.
“Anyone who supports the advancement of UAS technology is invited to join NODE, giving them tools to respond to initiatives in their communities, work productively with elected officials, and participate in efforts to ensure the positive benefits of drones remain available to everyone who abides by the FAA’s robust safety guidelines,” says the release.
NODE will not only assist in organizing and shaping local lobby groups, it will also serve as a platform where any member can bring a local issue to the attention of a national network of top UAS experts. Those include people who can provide assistance on how to speak authoritatively on the many benefits drones can provide – and their excellent safety record. It’s far more effective to engage with local lawmakers armed with solid data, evidence, and best practices. That’s generally when the most productive discussions take place, which ultimately leads to sound regulations.
NODE’s website will also serve as a one-stop place to track proposed regulations nationwide – making it easier for those who share their concerns to tap into a larger group. The goal, overall, is to work “proactively and effectively” with local elected officials.
As its website states: “Legislators around the country have introduced regulations that greatly impact our ability to fly our drones. Drone users already abide by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) robust safety guidelines. Local regulations can sometimes be overreaching and inconsistent from place to place, creating confusion and adding undue burdens on drone users.”
You can already join campaigns in Florida, Michigan, and California – with more state campaigns coming online very rapidly.
DJI is the initial sponsor of the NODE program, with the Drone Manufacturers Alliance and drone service provider Dronebase taking on affiliate roles. NODE is now up and running, and truly welcomes pilots and fans from across the country – regardless of the brand you fly or whether you build your own.
It’s really all about striking a fair and effective balance to ensure that responsible pilots will be able to continue to enjoy this hobby while ensuring any safety concerns of local officials are met. It’s not even that difficult a balance to strike; the FAA has already demonstrated a very clear model.
If you’re concerned about your rights as a pilot to continue enjoying this hobby in your state, TDC encourages you to sign up. We may even knock on NODE’s door and suggest they offer Canadians a chance to tap into the network on a province-by-province basis.
You can check out the NODE website here, follow NODE on Facebook here, and follow NODE on Twitter here.
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