(Note: I think the link is fixed now. Thanks for the alert.) Excellent feature article in New Scientist on the many, many ways in which drones are being used today in different places and functions around the world. They include flying grids over Brazilian fields to see which ones need to be re-sown, in France to monitor tiny but important perturbations in high speed rail lines, and many more. Drones are going to take on more and more functions in ordinary civilian life, private and governmental ones. Both the FAA and European agencies are getting set to issue rules on drones that will regulate access and safety in airspace. But in the meantime, the article notes:
[L]ast week real estate agents in Los Angeles, California, were ordered to stop using helicopter drones to shoot aerial movies of properties they are selling. “Although the FAA allows hobbyists to fly model airplanes for recreational purposes, that authority does not extend to operators flying unmanned aircraft for business purposes,” the Air Division of the Los Angeles police department reminded the California Association of Realtors.
I would be interested if readers knowledgeable in the regulatory law in these areas would let us know in the comments whether the LAPD is correct or not in this view. I’m not expert in these areas and have no reason to believe it is not a perfect valid order, but would be interested in what expert readers have to say about it. But the whole of the New Scientist article is well worth reading, to understand just how far drones are already entering civilian, and not only military, uses and how far they will go in the near future. (And I see now that Instapundit has linked the same article – that’s because great minds think alike.)