In the Lab


  • These light, relatively inexpensive, and versatile aircraft increasingly are catching the interest of businesses, the media, scientists, and law enforcement.
  • If you stare into the sky for any length of time, you might see a drone heading your way.
  • What began as projects for military use now are common gadgets for hobbyists.

Drone Defined and FAA Regulations (source: article called “How Drones Work,” written by Howard Adams, published in the August 2021 issue of an online periodical called Flight Technology. Viewed on October 10, 2021):

  • The drone ‘pilot,’ or operator, manages the controls from the ground and can watch the drone by viewing a display attached to the base station.
  • Most are equipped with an autopilot, a high-resolution camera, and real-time video.
  • Also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or unmanned aerial system (UAS), a drone is an aircraft that operates by an onboard computer and GPS, a remote control device, and/or an app on a computer or mobile device.
  • Current FAA regulations state that drones can fly no higher than 400 feet, must stay within the operator’s line of sight, and cannot venture over airports or populated areas. Newer FAA regulations require registration of both the drone and the operator; they also restrict flights crossing state lines.

Commercial and Media Use (source: printed book by Dawn Lynne Nitz called In the Sky, published in Denver in 2021 by Mountain Press, specific pages used were 110-137):

  • Sports photographers capture aerial footage, especially for events such as hang gliding, snowboarding, and downhill skiing.
  • Amazon captured the media’s attention when it announced plans to deliver packages using drones. The FAA opposed this proposition, stating that drones had to be flown within sight of the operator and cannot drop cargo.
  • Other commercial and media ventures, however, use drones for a variety of purposes. Insurance companies use drones to survey storm damage to buildings and property.

Scientific Use (source: website titled Air Technology Today, written by Maria Anna Perez and Jacob Lee Jones in August 2021. Viewed on September 27, 2021):

  • Their inexpensive cost makes drones ideal for cash-strapped or small-sized scientific or conservation-related use where the risk might be great, such as taking pictures in the eye of a hurricane.
  • Farmers create aerial maps to manage crop watering and fertilizing. Conservationists track endangered species, secure protected nesting areas, and map natural resources.
  • Scientists attach specialized diagnostic tools to measure solar reflectivity of the Amazon rain forest, use thermal imaging cameras to measure endangered plant temperatures, and measure hurricane pressures and temperatures.

Military, Law Enforcement, and Other Uses (same as previous source: website titled Air Technology Today, written by Maria Anna Perez and Jacob Lee Jones in August 2021. Viewed on September 27, 2021):

  • Military uses of drones include surveillance of areas into which it would be unsafe to send personnel, to supply deliveries to combat areas, and even to detonate weapons.
  • Medical personnel use drones to deliver supplies to remote regions and to retrieve medical samples.
  • Firefighters locate forest fires with drones.
  • Law enforcement can photograph a complex crime scene from above without contaminating evidence.

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