August 25, 2015
There are a million ways people might use drones in the future, from deliveries and police work to journalism. But in this episode, we’re going to talk about consumer drones — something that you or I might use for ourselves. What does the world look like when everybody with a smart phone also has a drone?
Legally, in theory, everybody in New York City, or Chicago, or Boston could have a drone with them, says Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington who specializes in the legal issues surrounding robots and drones. In the episode, he explains that unlike most things which are allowed unless there’s a law against it, drones are considered aircraft by the FAA and thus illegal with some exceptions. One of those exceptions is for hobbyists. But under the hobbyist exception there are few important rules. Things like: the drone has to stay below 400 feet, and the operator of the drone has to be able to see the thing she’s flying at all times. Which makes a lot of applications, in which a drone operates on its own, impossible.
But Calo says that this way of regulating drones can, and probably will change in the future. You’ll have to listen to the episode to hear why hot air balloons are a good historical precedent for drones.