Unmanned aircraft regulations sought by local firms


by Jane Flasch

Amazon wants to use drones to deliver packages.  A Rochester-based media company says unmanned aircraft will make it possible to record images in remote locations you can’t reach any other way,

“You can go from two feet off the ground to 500 feet off the ground and everywhere in between,” said Bryan Maslin of Maslin Digital, a digital production company.

On a blustery, snowy day he demonstrated the flying capability of an eight rotor helicopter specially designed to carry and stabilize high end, high definition digital cameras.  Remote controlled vehicles are no longer just for hobbiests.  They are reaching new commercial potential.

Smaller cameras combines with the more sophisticated battery and flying systems of these unmanned aircraft allow for aerial images which fill a niche that commercial video clients are demanding.

“I’ve flown and shot video from full-sized helicopters before and there are a lot of restrictions with that.  You can only fly so low and at such an air speed,” said Maslin.

Unmanned aircraft could easily record a property for a real estate sale or be used to inspect bridges and overpasses.  Problem is the technology is growing faster than government guidelines for using it.  “There is a lot of gray area right now and we are being careful to adhere to the FAA regulations,” said Maslin.

“We don’t want to break the law, but we also know there are companies around the country doing commercial videography using rigs like this,” he added.

An industry group says by 2025 it will be a $82 billion dollar industry employing 100 thousand people.  This week the FAA designated Griffiss Airport in Rome as one of six locations as a test site for drone use.  RIT will also be involved in research which impacts the military.

Waiting in the wings are dozens of smaller commercial companies seeking updated guidelines for unmanned aircraft.

Nine states have laws restricting civilian drones.  Legislation is pending in New York.  “You want science to continue to advance but once the science is developed the question is who can use it and what are the limitations of using it,” said Bill Nojay (R) Pittsford.

“The hobby has self-monitored itself for years,” said Jeff Ring.  He designs remote control flyers and has flown them for years.  “The FAA is concerned about national airspace and we’re helping them create the rules,” he added.