The average citizen will soon be able to accomplish the difficult task of taking aerial photographs. Unmanned Aerial Systems, or drones, are slowly being integrated into our society. However, as the drones become more prevalent, they are under scrutiny not only by the government, but private citizens.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently cited regulations that would allow for limited civilian use of drones.

The regulation, titled “Education, Compliance, and Enforcement of Unauthorized Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operators,” dictates certain rules that drone fliers must follow. The National Policy Notice, published by the FAA, requires any civil or public drone controller to obtain an authorization to operate an aircraft in United States airspace, or a Special Airworthiness Certification. However, the extent to which drones are to be allowed to be used in the U.S. is not completely defined.

AirWare, a software and services company for commercial drones, now has the money to start creating customizable drones. According to AirWare, these drones can be used for anything from videotaping to tracking wildlife in real time. This presents huge potential for new companies and research institutions but muddles policy within the government.

“The problem is if all of a sudden we are using unmanned aerial vehicles and hundreds, if not thousands, of them, in a relatively congested area, say an urban setting, flying around deliveries for Amazon, Zappos or for fast-food restaurants, how do you prevent them from crashing into each other, causing more problems?” assistant professor of political science Keith Grant said. “If we need to regulate commercial aviation airlines in this manner, how are we going to do that at such a smaller level with drones?”

Logistical concerns loom ahead for anyone trying to use drones. Yet privacy concerns are currently driving the debate on drone use. Right now there is no set of laws dictating where a private citizen, or the government, can fly their drones.

The FAA’s policies have yet to catch up to the explosion in the commercial drone market. Right now, the regulations prohibit drones from being flown higher than 400 feet or within a half mile from an airport. According to FAA regulations, private photographers are not able to use drones to take pictures. If they do, they can’t sell the photos they take with them.

This is why the NRT LLC, a national realty holdings company, is under scrutiny by the FAA for its commercial use of these photos. The limits set by the FAA could severely inhibit growth for the commercial sector of drones.

JMU’s university photographer Mike Miriello believes that those who aren’t operating drones correctly are giving other drone flyers a bad name.

Currently, the JMU’s University Marketing Photography Department uses a drone to take overhead photos. Miriello said the photography team operates the craft safely, following FAA guidelines. You can see the drone flying overhead during the commencement speech during graduation, or taking aerial shots of campus.

He explained that those who are using them for commercial purposes have more of an incentive to operate them safely because otherwise they would lose business.

“So I would argue that people who are using them for corporate, or commercial purposes have an incentive to fly safer than a hobbyist that has no experience and thinks it is a toy to them, where it is a business tool to someone who does corporate work,” Mirello said.

Contact Chris Kent at kent2cm@dukes.jmu.edu.