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Privacy issues among top concerns about personal drone use - KOAM TV 7

Privacy issues among top concerns about personal drone use

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Joel Summerlin and his dad, David, are among the thousands of drone operators across the U.S.

Joel has been interested in remote control aircraft before, but it wasn't until about a month ago he became interested in drones.

"Parks are a good place, unless there's lots of trees," Summerlin said. "You'll get stuck in a tree. If there's only one tree out there, you'll probably find it."

"Drones" is a general term. Summerlin said they are more often referred to as "quadcopters," and the FAA categorizes them as "unmanned aircraft systems".

Personal drone operators like the Summerlins are why the Federal Aviation Administration and the drone industry recently launched a safety campaign to make sure novice remote control pilots take precautions.

The video explains the "rules of the air," things users of unmanned aircraft systems need to know before they fly, the do's and don'ts of their hobby.

Drone operators are warned not to fly their aircraft near crowds or within five miles of an airport without notifying air traffic controllers.

"These aircraft are small, and they have high performance characteristics, and so it's very difficult for another pilot to see so they need to not be in airspace, around major airspace, around major airports," said Michael Huerta, FAA administrator.

But not everyone sees these recreational flyers the same way as the FAA.

"I don't think there's a real problem with that," said Steve Stockam, Joplin Regional Airport manager.

"If you look at the physical makeup of a recreational type or hobby type drone, the capacity for that piece of equipment really does not lend itself to get in the way of aircraft very much unless you're really flying it right off the approach end of a runway," Stockam said.

Stockam said, besides safety in the sky, there's an even bigger, underlying concern.

"With cameras and stuff mounted on them, privacy issues become a huge issue at that point in time," Stockam said.

But the FAA is looking out for those in the sky and on the ground.

The administration also advises not to fly near people or stadiums.

But Joel Summerlin said it can be difficult when you change the direction you're flying.

"If you are facing yourself, all of the controls are backward, so that can be difficult for a new flyer," Summerlin said.

The day we shot our story, Joel's dad, David Summerlin, flew a larger drone with video capabilities. It pulled a complete 360 and buzzed just over the top of our producer's head.

The wide-angled nature of the camera lens made the drone look higher up, but our producer said it may have only been a foot-and-a-half or two above his head - which is why the FAA is trying to look out for everyone.

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