Knoxville, Tenn -By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter
KNOXVILLE (WATE) – It’s a technology with growing interest across the country.
Unmanned aerial aircrafts, better known as drones, seem to be popping up all over the place.
In February, inspectors used a drone to survey the fire damage at the McClung warehouses in Knoxville.
The federal government has used drones to patrol the U.S. borders.
Flying the small aircrafts is also becoming a popular hobby.
“To see the capabilities that they can do and really the autonomous features of them, that’s what’s really remarkable,” Knoxville Drone User Group founder Jim Falletti said.
Falletti founded the group in January. It currently has around 30 members.
It’s a local chapter of the National Drone User Network, which has more than 4,000 members.
“We want people to become familiar and not be intimidated by seeing those pictures of predators or the reaper or something like that which are not the predominant technology out there,” Falletti said
FAA sees spike in drone use applications
Drones are a booming and evolving industry. According to the FAA, the number of certificate of authorization (COA) requests, meaning request for permission to operate drones, was 82 in 2007.
By 2013, that number grew by six times to 492 applications.
University of Tennessee video production specialist Mike Wiseman told 6 News UT has submitted a COA application.
Wiseman said although the school has two drones, they are not in use right now.
Web extra: Universities with drone authorization [map]
“It’s like a kid that has Christmas presents under the tree and he can’t open them yet,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman said he has tested the drone and captured aerial shots of the Boomsday fireworks last year.
Wiseman said he believes drones can be a valuable tool for journalism students.
“At UT, we’re always trying to find cutting edge technology to give our students more opportunities and different ways to tell a story,” Wiseman said. “A drone is one of the newest technologies and it gives reporters and students a unique angle of something that they would have to rely on a helicopter for.”
Wiseman said the school is holding off on using the drones until it receives FAA approval.
It’s all comes down to what’s allowed, and what isn’t by the federal government. It’s a set of rules that is still a work in progress.
“It’s difficult to regulate right now,” Lincoln Memorial University Assistant Law Professor Melanie Reid said.
The FAA is required to come up with new regulations for drone use by 2015.
In the meantime, any commercial use of drones is banned.
6 News asked the FAA about violations found in Tennessee and the FAA said it sent one warning letter to a Maryville business in 2012.
Recreational use of drones is allowed as long as the users follow the elevation guidelines and operate the devices in permitted areas.
Reid said the FAA is working on safety regulations and legislators are tackling the legal questions.
“The key issue now is do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy?” Reid said.
Law enforcement in Tennessee must have a warrant to use a drone for surveillance with some exceptions.
6 News asked Reid about your legal rights if you believe someone invades your personal space with a drone.
“It’s really unclear if you can sue other individuals say your neighbor using a drone,” Reid said. “The way you’d be able to do that is you can sue them through common law tort.”
Reid said that means your options could include suing for trespass, property damage if the drone causes damage or invasion of privacy.
“The issue is going to be, how does the majority of the American population feel about drone use?” Reid said.
Falletti, meanwhile, said his group has no problem with some regulations especially when it comes to safeguarding personal privacy.
“We do want it to be regulated I think to some extent but you want it to be sensible,” Falletti said.
For now, Falletti said he is hoping to break down the stigma around the use of drones.
“Usually, we’re more fearful of what we don’t know,” Falletti said.