PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The discussion around the use of remote-controlled drones continues around the country. Amazon revealed plans to begin using the remote-controlled drones to delivery packages in the future. There's still lot of questions surrounding the safety and practicality of this technology being used outside of the government and military. One former law enforcement officer is trying to answer those questions here in the Coachella Valley.
Frank Taylor is a retired captain with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. He says he was always very involved with the new technology the department used, and after his retirement began to research others. Through his company, Community Safety Consulting Group, he is spreading the benefits of using the unmanned aircrafts, which he is clear are not drones. "There's a misnomer with the word 'drone' that's out there," said Taylor. "When you think of that word, you think of military, you think of surveillance."
He's presented to law enforcement, city officials, and interested members of the community. He believes in the positive uses of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs. "There's so many practical uses for it that they better be prepared to deal with it," said Lloyd Roberts, a former pilot who's interested in the use of the UAVs.
Uses which Taylor highlights in his presentations. Things like showing hot spots during a fire, helping find lost hikers and perhaps most appealing to the valley, giving farmers a birds eye view of their crops. All this at a fraction of the cost they would normally pay for labor or rental of a helicopter. "Thirty percent of the work at about 2% of the cost," said Taylor. "It ends up being a way to do more efficient business for the future."
The FAA already regulates the use of these "drones. They can be used legally above 400 feet only by public agencies and universities doing research, if they get clearance. People who use drones for recreational use can fly below 400 feet but can only fly during the day and most stay away from crowded areas. Commercial use of drones is not legal. Still, some want stricter control for fear of an invasion of privacy. "Have to make sure that the public is aware, we're not looking over their houses, looking through their backyards, looking through their windows," said Taylor.
Taylor hopes these informational meetings give people a clearer look at the UAV landscape. Important because one supporter says it's only a matter of time before we see a lot of them. "Oh, I think they better welcome it, because they better get out of the road because it's coming," said Roberts.
The state is looking at legislation, SB 15, which would regulate the flying of drones and UAVs.