South Carolina And What’s Up With The Federal Preemption?

South Carolina And What’s Up With The Federal Preemption?

No denying this one has got the conjecture fest going on the boards and in the forums. We are starting to see a new pattern of drone sightings being tried in the court of social media. The result is whipping up concerns in the press and even the advocacy groups are calling for stiff enforcement action and another look at 336. 

In this incident as well as the Las Vegas video and others, I am in the ‘let’s let the FAA process work’ camp. The FAA has the reg’s and the tools to get the investigating job done. We in the aviation community can in turn then objectively gauge the health and viability of the system. Noticeably absent in this latest incident is the hue and cry from the world’s largest drone ‘advocacy” group (and signed on to by the other major advocacy groups) calling for an enforcement tar and feathering. 

The following points have been raised in conversing with other experts in drone affiliated fields. Where were the calls to lock the door and throw away the key in the recent Blackhawk collision? There was solid evidence in the form of Phantom parts lodged in the helicopter, controlled airspace and flying BVLOS. Folks are pointing to the Las Vegas incident video as the evidence. However, some are saying the video could be faked and from a sim. I’m not a video forensics expert, but I will say that it is possible and at the college level to gin up a video.  I hate to break it to you (Black Panther spoiler alert), but almost everything you see come out of Hollywood has some CGI in it. 

The latest incident in South Carolina however is a good example of what we are facing without Federal preemption. Do you suppose it would be easier to pull the wool over a FAA or NTSB Investigator’s eyes or a local police officer that knows little about aviation? This latest incident kind of reminds me of the old RC days when a guy would yell “radio hit!” (aka pilot error) just before he packed his warbird model into the dirt. Rogue intermittent radio interference, the scourge of the flying field. ;-)

What we do know is, the police report indicates that the CFI stated“DJI Phantom.”  After reading about the DJI server breach, some suggest that it is within the realm of possibility for the OEM to know if one of their aircraft was flying in the area and at what time. Maybe the FAA could subpoena the information from the Chinese, to help with the investigation? It is all about safety after all.  

We have yet to hear or read the staunch condemnation and calls for enforcement from the world’s largest advocacy group on this mishap, and some are wondering if they just don’t care about helicopters, or choose to temper their outrage when it is a sitting board member’s product? 


Patrick Egan

Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).