Invasion of the drones

A drone invasion appears eminent. For years, the military has used the technology. Now, consumers are taking them to the sky. It's expected to become a nearly 90 billion dollar business worldwide. Much of it is expected to come from nine states, including Alabama. This new technology is sparking questions about who regulates it, how it should be legally operated, and what the penalties should be for not following the rules.Flight has always fascinated humans from Icarus' failed wax winged flight in Greek mythology to the Wright Brother's flyer at the dawn of the 20th century to the advent of the space program in 1950's. Now, drones are starting to soar."It's s a new and exciting way to experience flight without going through all the costs and time of getting your pilots license," explained Kevin Allred, owner of AGL Aerial Video Solutions.Some call them drones. Others use the terms unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).{} But they're still an investment ranging from 450 dollars to thousands and an addictive one."We may be able to see there are people down there. We can't even tell what they are wearing for the most part until we got this thing really close to them and they're going to know it's there," said Allred.FAA guidelines restrict flight to no more than 400 feet to prevent interference with planes midair.Hobbyists also have their own rules."We have a lot of rules, a lot of protocals we've set forth by our small company we follow. We don't fly over people. We don't fly near people," said Allred.But more people and companies are purchasing drones. Right now, FAA must still approve commercial use. Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville has several. Gadsden police even have two. In the US, they're used for border patrol, agricultural monitoring, crime scene investigations, search and rescue missions and disasters, like the California wildfires and the recent tornadoes. In fact, the FAA is investigating a TV station for capturing video following the Arkansas tornado with one due to a FAA ban on use by news agencies."One of the advantages if cost effectiveness. It does have the safety factor of removing the pilot out of the vehicle and out of harm's way," said Cody Lemke, an engineering student at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.