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The dizzying drone craze is changing all parts of society from policing, agricultural inspects, scientific forestry, media coverage, engineering, emergency services/saving lives (delivering medical supplies), real estate business to the roofing business. A world class city must embrace and frequently regulate, most likely on a yearly basis.


-10M drones are sold worldwide.

-Drone industry value was estimated at $3.3M in 2015; by 2025, $90B

-NAR (National Association of Relators) reports that the interest in using drones for marketing is pervasive.

-44% of members use drones for marketing

-Aerial photography is commonplace.

-DRONES ARE CHANGING POLICING: Drones are helping police find robbery suspects, bust up a ring of stealing bulldozers, patrol beaches for sharks, scan neighborhoods for hurricane suvivors and track missing people. 350 departments are using drones-doubled in numbers from 2014.

-ROOFING BUSINESS CAN BARELY OPERATE WITHOUT DRONES: Business Damage detection can now be conducted with the use of drones. The newest drones are equipped with 4K cameras for maximum clarity. Images taken from the 4K cameras can be run through machine learning software such as Panton’s, to detect anomalies within the images themselves — highlighting the presence of damage. Drone usage combined with machine learning can drastically reduce the time it takes to submit a claim. Speed is critical in the roofing industry, especially during storm season.

-DRONES ARE REVOLUTIONIZING THE E-COMMERCE DELIVERY BUSINESS: Delivery including fast food by drones including Amazon and Target has boomed from 2012, $40 million business to $1 billion dollar business in 2017. Target just acquired for $550M the delivery drone company, Shipt.

“Drone adoption has been growing rapidly — 300,000 drones were registered within the first month after the FAA opened its registration site.” One 2016 FAA rule change is that the operator no longer needs a pilot’s license.

So, to be a world class city, drones must be accommodated and regulated. Drone progress is so fast that regulations need to be updated frequently, probably annually. So, what about the District of Columbia. Are they banned? Is DC a drone free city? How does that match with being a world class city?

DC No Drone Zone

The National Capital Region is governed by a Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) within a 30-mile radius of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which restricts all flights in the greater DC area.

The SFRA is divided into a 15-mile radius inner ring and a 30-mile radius outerring.

  • Flying an unmanned aircraft within the 15-mile radius inner ring is prohibited without specific FAA authorization.

  • Flying a drone for recreational or non-recreational use between 15 and 30 miles from Washington, D.C. is allowed under these operating conditions:

    • Aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (including any attachments such as a camera)

    • Aircraft must be registered and marked (if it is not operated exclusively under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, pending NOTAM change)

    • Fly below 400 ft.

    • Fly within visual line-of-sight

    • Fly in clear weather conditions

    • Never fly near other aircraft

The airspace around Washington, D.C. is more restricted than in any other part of the country. Rules put in place after the 9/11 attacks establish "national defense airspace" over the area and limit aircraft operations to those with an FAA and Transportation Security Administration authorization. Violators face stiff fines and criminal penalties.

Page last modified: October 19, 2018 1:58:50 PM E

How does one fly a UAS or drone for work or business purposes? In 2016 FAA issued guidelines for drone use for work and business somewhat clarifying the legal landscape. These rules relax some restrictions that drones must be in line-of-sight or at night.

There are three ways to fly a UAS or drone for work, business, or non-recreational reasons:

  • Follow the requirements in the Small UAS rule (Part 107)

  • Obtain an exemption under the Special Authority for Certain Unmanned Systems (U.S.C. 44807). [LINK TO THAT PAGE]

  • Obtain an airworthiness certificate for the aircraft

The only DC agency that seems to be paying attention to drones is the Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment. “OCTFME regularly monitors the activities of the FAA regarding Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or "Drones". For the latest information regarding UAS, please visit the FAA's UAS Integration Office (AFS-80) which is the Agency's single point of contact for everything UAS. The UAS Integration Office collaboratively develops operating concepts, policies, requirements, criteria, and procedures for new system evaluations, integration, and implementation of emerging UAS technologies, and coordinates all UAS operational authorizations, including Certificate of Waiver or Authorizations (COAs) and Section 333 exemptions.”


In terms of DC Real Estate Business: “Jeff (Brier) and I have never used drones in our business.  We see more drones in the higher bracket properties both in Virginia and Maryland where the restrictions  are limited.

If Drones were allowed you would see more agents offering ariel photos as part of their marketing package as they do in other cities.  Miami Beach for example uses Drones in the higher bracket condos and home markets over 2M.

Drones give an entirely new prospective and overview of the property which is great when your shopping for a new home.”

Martin Toews The Martin & Jeff Group Compass Real Estate

Steve of Maggio Roofing in response to a customer request wondering why this company does not use drones stated: “Drones are not allowed in DC.”

Fortunately, in 2018 FAA has proposed new rules for drones less than 55 pounds in an effort to boost the growing drone industry. These rules may allow drones to fly over crowds and at night. They also call for enhanced operator training. FAA also wants manufacturers to guarantee that the materials they use promote safety.

So, it is clear that in DC, there is the impression that drones are completely banned. First, there needs to be clarification on this issue and second DC government as well as FAA need to realize that the drone business is dramatically changing and the rules need to be dynamic. Policy makers need to ensure that different drone systems can co-exist and there is a tracking system so they do not collide. This system could be compared to regulating car traffic. Could drones transform our society the way the internet did? If FAA and DC government cannot accommodate drones, will they be able to accommodate Hyundai’s walking cars?

Larry Ray is Senior Adjunct Faculty at The George Washington University School of Law. He served as ANC Commissioner in both Dupont Circle and Columbia Heights.

Pix 1: Registration.

Pix 2: Drone classification

Pix 3: Drone Zone

Pix 4: No Drone Zone sign

Pix 5: Drone for $699 at Target Store


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