008PCM Thinking About Getting a Drone? Better Listen to This First!

Everyone wants a drone. It’s become a billion dollar industry with hobbyists, photographers, real estate folks, commercial businesses, and farmers rushing to buy these amazing devices for their various pursuits. But the government is making it very difficult with some ridiculous regulations. If you have a drone or plan on getting one, you’d better listen to this episode of the PC Mike Techcast.

The issue is that the Federal Aviation Administration’s current regulations regarding use of  drones are overreaching and just plain absurd, including a rule that prohibits drone use for academic research unless researchers go through the long and arduous task of getting special permits – even researchers who flew multi-million dollar jets for the U.S. military.

Missy Cummings was one of the first female fighter pilots for the U.S. Navy, but the Duke University professor could get into some serious trouble if she flies a small drone over a field for research purposes.

The reason?

“I’m at war with the FAA constantly…and one of the reasons I’m taking them to task is that they want to insist … every small drone operator have a private pilot’s license and this is simply not the right skill set for these people to have,” Cumming says in episode 8 of the PC Mike Techcast. “I definitely think they are being too restrictive.”

Instead, Cummings, one of the nation’s top experts on the use of drones who wrote a recent op-ed piece for CNN, says the FAA needs to work with users of drones to come to some kind of understanding aimed at retooling regulations that foster a more realistic use.

It’s just one of the many drone-related issues Cummings, a drone expert who is a professor and director of Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University, talks about with us about for episode 8 of the PC Mike Techcast.

Cummings says it’s all about balance: the FAA needs to loosen up, yet users need to be aware of where and how they are flying drones.

“It’s almost like the RC (remote control) community has taken it’s old RC controllers and put them on a new Ferrari,” says Cummings.

Among the many drone-related issues discussed are:

  • The history of drones, from the military to the hobbyists
  • The overreaching absurdity of the FAA’s current drone regulations
  • How the problems we have seen stem from inadequate “situational awareness” from the drone’s control station, or transmitter
  • The need for better training for drone hobbyists
  • How drones have become more than a $1 billion industry
  • How France will be using drones to deliver mail and packages
  • How “geo-fencing” can keep drones out of certain areas – unless a big gust of wind blows them across the “line”
  • How drones will become even more common here, used commercially for agriculture, parcel delivery and real estate and even more by hobbyists
  • What a hobbyist can – and can’t – do with a drone


Additional show notes from episode 8 of the PC Mike Techcast:

First Things First: Apple’s Insanely Huge 2014 4Q Stuns

Apple Corp. reported huge numbers for its 2014 fourth quarter. In fact, it was the company’s biggest quarter in its history. Among the stunning figures? Apple has $179 billion CASH. I give you some other ways to put it in perspective.  For additional background without too much hyperbole or Apple Fanboy/girl talk, check out Apple’s press release.

All Drones, All the Time

Drones seem to be making headlines just about every day, usually not for much good. A website dedicated to drone incidents can even be found here.

That’s why there is perhaps no better time for me to dedicate the majority of an episode of the PC Mike Techcast to drones. I start by setting the stage for what’s happening in the world of drones before interviewing one of the country’s top drone experts, Missy Cummings.

Interview: Drone Expert Mary “Missy” Cummings, Associate Professor and Director of Duke’s Humans and Autonomy Laboratory

Mary “Missy” Cummings is an associate professor at Duke University and director of Duke’s Humans and Autonomy Laboratory. She was one of the U.S. Navy’s first female fighter pilots and is one of the top experts on commercial drones.

Drone Review: DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter with Zenmuse H3-2D 3-Axis Gimbal

Yes, I mention getting in a big of trouble for using my drone in a U.S. National Park – and in this episode I tell you why I still consider it one of my most favorite tech gadgets. I bring you up to speed on what it is, how I use it, and if I think my Phantom 2 was a wise investment. You can read my full review on a separate PC Mike blog post at https://pcmike.com/review-phantom-2-drone

Apps: Cool New Ways to Get Your Messaging Across

Hands down these days, the most popular apps out there are messaging apps. And why not? Messaging is cheaper, faster, and more efficient than regular text and because of that, new and more powerful apps are headed toward your smartphone. I talk about the Kakao family of apps, Whatsapp, and Viber in this week’s app segment. You can read a more detailed review here.

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Here’s how:

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Thank you!


Mike is a veteran journalist whose video "PC Mike" reports have been distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations since 1994, making him one of the most experienced tech reporters in the country. His tech stories and videos have appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, the Today Show, The New York Times, USA Today and in numerous national newspapers and magazines. In addition to the PC Mike tech blog, he also publishes the Roadtreking.com RV Travel Blog in which he travels North America in an RV reporting about interesting people and places.