Black Market Drone Operators Should Worry FAA, Says Expert

Black Market Illegal Drone Operators Threaten UAV Industry

While many commercial drone operators are either operating within the guidelines of existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Section 333 exemptions or seeking certification via the new FAA Part 107 certification process, many renegade commercial UAV operators continue to fly in national airspace without proper training or certification. This is creating a dangerous black market of drone operators that should be a priority for the FAA. Jonathan Daniels, CEO and co-founder of Henderson, Nevada-based Praxis Aerospace Concepts International Inc., testified before a hearing of the (U.S.) House Small Business Committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations that he has two primary concerns. “First, there is a culture perception of premium for the cost of compliance that has deflated the market,” Daniels said. “My overhead is much greater than a black marketer who does not have insurance, permits and bonds; even if our labor costs were the same, my company is at a disadvantage. “Second, the public will not discriminate between a legal and illegal operations when the inevitable accident occurs,” Daniels said.

Daniels says the UAS industry current has a general problem with "misfeasance and malfeasance." Misfeasants are those who are improperly complying with the law, and malfeasants are those who are willingly skirting the regulations. “Unfortunately, the list of both misfeasants and malfeasants include large corporations, small businesses and sole proprietors alike. The internet is full of illegal promotional videos, obviously flown over people, in close proximity to airports or beyond visual line of sight,” Daniels testified.

Rep. Cresent Hardy, R-Nev., chaired the hearing, hoping to gain insight into next steps for small businesses. “With an initial report indicating that an overwhelming majority of companies operating UAS for commercial purposes have 10 employees or less, this industry will truly be a small-business industry,” said Hardy.

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