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Funster drone jock? Please don’t be a twit – US industry group

Insists: We commercial bods stick to rules

CES 2015 Concerned about a potential influx of unsafe and ignorant drone owners, the US Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is backing an initiative to teach safe flying.

The industry advocate said that with sales of personal drone 'copters soaring over the holiday season, it would need to step up efforts to keep new owners from breaking FAA rules on the safe and legal operation of the craft.

To that end, the group is going to put its sizeable marketing muscle behind Know Before You Fly, a hobby aircraft safety program backed by the Academy of Model Aeronautics and FAA.

Among the key aims of the project will be to spread federal regulations on operating drones and model aircraft, such as staying at altitudes below 400 feet and not operating within five miles (8km) of airports.

The CEA said it is backing the effort in part because it fears the market for personal drones is changing. Where in the past owners of drones and model planes were aviation enthusiasts well-versed in FAA rules, an influx of cheaper drones and higher sales has created a new crop of users who don't know (or care) about what they can (and can't) do with their new toys.

"[Know Before You Fly] clearly gives consumers guidance on flying responsibly before they even take to the skies," CEA boss Gary Shapiro said in announcing the move.

"We look forward to working with the FAA as it provides timely as well as informative educational guidance."

Not every FAA rule is popular with the industry, however. Even some of those in the coalition are critical of the administration's tight restrictions on the use of drones for commercial activity.

FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office manager Jim Williams said that the rules were made in the belief that hobbyists would be less likely to risk injury to others than those trying to make a buck.

As of now, the FAA has banned commercial use with only a handful of exceptions for firms that fly drones in remote, unpopulated areas.

Opponents have pointed out that pilots who would stand to lose their business would be far more likely to fly by the book than those just in it for a good time.

"I do firmly believe that commercial use is going to be the safest you see," said Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV coalition.

"Commercial users are going to be more responsible because they have a lot more to lose," he said. ®

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