Drones are a newer technology that keeps expanding more into the civilian realm. Most drones in the past were used by the military to gain information on a remote location without putting the soldier at risk. Now, however, the drones are finding an audience among civilians to use for various reasons. Unfortunately, not much is known about this technology, which makes governments hesitant about drafting laws about their usage. Only after careful consideration will the laws be passed that will control the use of drone technology.
What is a Drone?
A drone is essentially any unmanned aircraft, but it isn’t as simple as that. Sometimes, drones can be controlled directly by a human, but many drones operate autonomously, using GPS to navigate. It is often hard to pin down exactly what is a drone and what is not. Model airplanes are not drones because they are usually kept within line of sight and are radio controlled at all times by a human. Unmanned military aircraft are not technically drones, either. Although no one is in the cockpit, a remote human is controlling the aircraft with the same controls as an actual plane. So should these aircraft be considered “drones” under the law, or just another aircraft?
Even airplanes that have a remote, forward-facing camera that transmits an image to a user is not a drone. These are usually used by the military and not civilian users. So what is a drone? An aircraft that navigates independently using GPS coordinates is the exact definition of a drone. However, there are many aircraft that nearly meet the standard, but in some way fall short. Hobbyist drones are, indeed, drones by the exact definition. Hobbyists are skilled in creating these aircraft, and they cannot recreate the technology used in military grade unmanned aircraft – nearly all of which are technically not drones.
What Guidelines are in Place?
Many jurisdictions are unsure of how exactly to regulate the use of drones. Privacy is an issue and interfering with air traffic is another. It is possible that drones could be created by those who would use them for surveillance on military targets, possibly derailing the war on terror. Most who use these drones do it out of sense of fun and adventure. There is a great deal of harm that can come from drones, though, and governments do not have enough information to make laws to regulate something that is not very well understood.
What is the New Maryland Law on Drones?
As of July 1, 2015, Maryland’s stance on drones is that the government is not qualified to make regulations for a technology that isn’t well understood except by the military and certain advanced civilians. This means that drones are not subject to any rules in the state of Maryland. One exception to this rule is that the aircraft must comply with FAA standards for small aircraft. Since they usually are so small, the drones very easily meet these requirements. As drones become more common and the military technology trickles down into the civilian world, more laws and regulations are to be expected. For now, though, the door is wide open for people to use their drones in any way they see fit.