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As We See It

Could drones turn Nevada skies into the Wild West?

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Confusion from above! The skies are watching you.

Drones are big business. They’re expected to contribute $80 billion to the U.S. economy over the next 10 years, but with their massive proliferation come untold legal, safety and ethical concerns. It isn’t hard to visualize a future where the things are clogging up the skies, bumping into each other and creating security nightmares.

Supposedly that’s where the Federal Aviation Administration comes in. Their guidelines state that all unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are subject to FAA regulations, and that anyone wishing to operate one for commercial purposes has to get FAA authorization.

In reality, however, the FAA “guidelines” are a quagmire. GauravJit Singh has received several FAA inquiries into the legality of his Philadelphia-based DroneCast advertising business, which he launched in April. He calls the FAA rules “very gray,” and says his legal team interprets his business as very much within the boundaries of the law, since his drones go no higher than 25-40 feet. “Nothing is set in stone with the FAA. It’s basically how you interpret the law, and that’s not the way it should be.”

Singh expanded his business to Las Vegas last week and adds he will continue to operate until he hears otherwise. He says he understands the FAA’s challenge to make sure airspace doesn’t turn into a Wild West scenario, but suggests other agencies should regulate lower-flying aircraft, such as county or city governments.

“In reality, the real danger to FAA airspace is the hobbyists,” Singh says. “That’s who they should be going after.”

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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