The rapidly increasing popularity of drones has been stirring up controversy on issues of privacy and safety. Owners of drones that weigh more than half a pound are required to register their remote control aircraft with The Federal Aviation Administration and face fines up to $250,000 if they fail to comply with the law. Although I can understand why people might be paranoid about the possible dangers drones might cause, I think the introduction of such a severe federal law goes completely overboard.
One of the main concerns that drones have brought up is the possibility of voyeurism and privacy invasion. With the introduction of first person view, or FPV, drone pilots are able to see through a camera mounted on the front of the drone and fly as if they are seated inside, as well as record footage as the drone flies.
I have flown a drone before, and every person that I see through the camera is nothing but a blob. It would be completely impractical to spy on someone via FPV, because nothing can be seen clearly at all. Since the video is broadcast with no lag, there is no room for high video quality. On top of that, it’s obvious when a drone is being flown nearby because they make lots of noise when they are in the air. A much more effective way of spying on people would be with powerful lenses on cameras that allow someone to see a clear picture from far away and take a picture to view or distribute later. The giant lenses that make this possible have been around for years, so why aren’t people complaining about getting spied on? Nobody gets fined for owning a powerful camera and not registering it with the federal government. To me, this law just seems like another way to make the government more revenue.
There are more types of drones than the giant ones that are typically purchased ready-to-fly by people following the hype. There is a large community of enthusiasts that includes professional racing pilots, designers and people who fly for fun. There are teams and organizations that have been formed on a local and national level to accommodate the growing sport of drone racing. One local organization is DieHard RC, which hosts local races in the community and is open to all. I have attended some of the events that DieHard has put on and I have experienced the kindness and inclusiveness of the drone community firsthand. FPV is not only an emerging hobby, but a growing sport that is bringing communities together.
Drone racing has become a widely recognized sport, and tournaments and championships are held across the nation. Last September, the MultiGP Drone Racing League hosted a national drone racing championship in Muncie, Indiana. Thousands of pilots from across the country attended the event and a national champion was crowned. The events don’t stop at a national level – world drone racing championships take place as well in locations such as Hawaii and Dubai.
Along with a growing racing community, another sector of FPV is coming into existence – the Tiny Whoop community. Commonly just referred to as Whoops, the tiny micro drones are no more than three inches across and weigh less than 25 grams. Whoops have brought FPV indoors into homes, offices and workplaces, and because of the versatility and more affordable price than full-size drones they have drawn more people into the community – including myself.
My point is that FPV should not be seen as any sort of threat, but should be welcomed as a new interest for people to take part in. Those who have ill intentions will use other methods to spy on people and invade privacy. I encourage anyone who is interested to reach out and get involved in the FPV community.