Drones spark concern for Pinellas residents - FOX 13 News

Drones spark concern for Pinellas residents

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Eric Rohner had a bad experience with a small drone Sunday. Michael Blitch wanted to give him a good experience Wednesday.

Blitch wound up demonstrating one of Rohner's concerns, when his drone unexpectedly splashed into the water near the St. Petersburg Pier.

"Anything can go down, that's why whenever I operate it I tend to not fly around people at all," Blitch told FOX 13 News.

Rich Hanson, a spokesman for the Academy of Model Aeronautics, agreed.

"These devices are subject to failures and they need to be operated with that understanding so that if something does go wrong you're not going to be hurting people," Hanson said.

Sunday Rohner clashed with another drone enthusiast on Treasure Island.

"I was just trying to enjoy a day at the beach and you have the sound of a thousand bees hovering over you," he recounted Wednesday. "And you find there's a camera attached to it; it's just not a cool thing to do."

Similar confrontations across the nation are predictable.

"Those [small drones] are being sold currently by the thousands" Hanson said. "We talk to distributors that literally say that they're selling hundreds a week, and they're going out there without any type of safety guidelines, safety structures."

Coincidentally, on Tuesday his organization and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which represents larger drone interests, wrote a joint letter of frustration to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA has been studying federal regulations for six years, in a process that will take several more years.

"There's hundreds of thousands of stakeholders involved here," Hanson said.

The privacy issues are separate from the safety issues. At least 30 states are considering legislation to restrict the use of drones, generally targeting law enforcement use.

As far as civilian use is concerned, "They have struggled with the issue of privacy and....where people have the expectation of privacy" Hanson said.

All of this offers comfort to Rohner and his initial objections to a drone on the beach. While appreciating Blitch's outreach with a positive drone encounter, Rohner says there is still a creep factor and safety concern there.

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