What is a Drone?

by FliteTest | July 30, 2014 | (16) Posted in News

We talked to 4 individuals involved in the RC hobby to ask them about drones, drone law, and how this all affects RC as a whole. 

If you don't know Josh Bixler then welcome to your first Flite Test article! Josh has over 25 years experience in the RC hobby and one of the wonderful hosts of this show! 

Raphael "Trappy" Pirker is one of the members of Team BlackSheep, aka the FPV Daredevils! 

Brendan Schulman is a Special Counsel Attorney at Kramen Levin. He successfully defended Trappy above in the first case of an FAA enforcement action. 

Josh Scott is another host of this show and doesn't really know what's going on most of the time. We keep him around anyway. 


What are your opinions on drones and drone law? Chat it up in the forums!


Widkin on August 1, 2014
This is a short and somewhat funny clip, but I feel that you kind of miss some of the important points. Yes, you discuss the privacy issue. Good analogy to camera phones. However, the safety issue is quite muddled. It's hardly simple enough to say that "drones" does not pose a threat to people on the ground. A large heavy multirotor crashing into a crowd of people, props spinning, has the potential to do some serious harm.

Why not give some different scenarios of safe and unsafe flying? The pilot that knows his craft, maybe even scratch-built it, and is flying over fields and forests, is not any serious threat. That's the classic RC-guy, which had been around for many many years. On the other hand, we have the average Joe that buys a ready-to-fly multirotor and tries to get a "cool shot" i.e. close to people or property. He is the real problem, and a quite new one. You completely fail to discuss this, which is unfortunate, considering it really is the core issue, where a niche hobby has gone mainstream.

Also, the sarcasm from Josh Scott, although funny and quite obvious, is probably more of a disservice. It's only funny to those of us that already know the "answers", and might be considered offensive. Just saying.

Finally, even though Trappy and Team Blacksheep might be nice guys and amazing pilots, they are definitely pushing the envelope of what is OK. Even though they might have clearance for some of their city flying, the fact of the matter is that they fly close to people and traffic, which can hardly be considered completely safe, and even if they are skilled enough to be "safe", they are encouraging the previously mentioned average Joe to take his brand new RTF "drone" for a spin in all the wrong locations. I think that Flitetest should be more concerned about the risk of being associated with the bad press around Trappy, or at the very least be much more clear that they do not condone everything he does.

I do applaud that you try to educate people, though, but I feel that you are not there yet.
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sailorJohn on August 2, 2014
Well said. Flitetest is a business venture operating under the RC hobby exception and sadly will probably suffer due to Trappy's exposure. Chad's not stupid!
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MentalWhiplash on July 30, 2014
Lots of good perspective. Love the addition of the trademark Josh Scott sarcasm!
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BluBunnyRC on July 30, 2014
they should send this to the FAA

Reply I if you agree
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Fastlearner on July 31, 2014
Just had a "Drone" positive event. Volunteered to fly my Flite Test H-quad with a video camera for my son's HS Marching Band. Kept it safe and flew through five batteries. Gave the raw footage to the band director. Parents and students are excited asking "Are you the Drone Guy?" The band is getting to see the progression of ther drills from multiple angles on a practice field that has no press box. Son is getting questions from classmates.
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BUZZVIEW on August 3, 2014

I have a huge amount of time and respect for Flite Test and your friends, but I am afraid I do not agree with your perspective on this subject. I also own a TBS Discovery platform and a Kraken large 20kg Octocopter.
The term drone is over-simplistic. If you are going to be objective about this subject then I think you should use the terms UAV/UAS. TBS has not done any of us, be we hobbyists or professionals, any favours and I love my TBS Discovery. What TBS did in NY, London and at the site of the Costa Concordia was, in my opinion, totally and utterly irresponsible. It has caused a huge amount of damage and yet Trappy cannot seem to understand that, or be prepared to accept any form of responsibility.

At the time of the Costa Concordia stunt, it was an on going salvage and accident investigation site where 52 people, like you and me, lost their lives. If nothing else, the TBS stunt showed a total lack of respect for those killed or their families.
The only reason the Met Police in London did not arrest the TBS team at Big Ben was because they could not positively identify the pilot. The fallout we, as operators in the UK, have faced since that little "fun" flight has been significant. Thankfully there we have a resonably understanding CAA, who proactively work with hobby groups and professional alike. Google CAP722 and have a look at the UK's regulations. hobbyists and professionals operate within these guidelines and to the Air Navigation Order, CAP 393, articles 166 and 167.

In the UK and EU the authorities could have gone down the same route as the FAA. We were extremely fortunate that they decided not to, but those who use their platforms irresponsibly damage the sport, hobby, profession and industry as a whole. Please, think, then act. Trappy and TBS, you owe us all an apology. Try showing some level of responsibility and credibility. As a leading high profile entity, you should be setting the standards that other follow. Please do not go for short term gains, because the only people that will suffer in the long terms, are the rest of us. After all, the public will still buy you platforms.
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OscarTGrouch on July 30, 2014
I think this is a question that we will need to some how come together as a groupd to define what a drone is. Most likely, because people like the term, what many of us will do will be called drones. With that said it is our job to continue to educate.

As a side note I dont think it is good to on one hand reach out and try and educate people while on the other hand make fun of them for not understanding something they most likely have never looked into.
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Dingo on July 31, 2014
Trappy should review his answers Team black sheep post videos taken in busy populated areas, check out Teatime in London on youtube, the filming of this is against the regulations currently in place in the UK, I am surprised Flite test continues to be associated with Black Sheep who are clearly at the extreme end of the Hobby,
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patrol7 on July 30, 2014
Nicely done!
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Crusher513 on July 30, 2014
Great video guys. I really liked the humor and the push to educate the public, its really needed on this subject. As an aircrew member of the military "drones" I thought I could add my two cents.

The term "drone" is an old code word used in WW2 small pilotless planes used to target practice and long range bombing (think of modern rocket artillery). We did away with the terms UAS and UAV around 2011 because calling it "unmanned" was a disservice to the hundreds of men and women needed for each mission, so we now call them RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft).

As for privacy, military RPA use inside the USA has very strict regulation and oversight, only able to fly in military airspace/ranges.
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Larry Laitner on July 30, 2014
I don't know if Josh Scott comes up with his own lines, or whether he has writers who creates them, but I love his sense of humor. Sometimes it is just a raised eyebrow, sometimes a word or two, and sometimes it is a lot more, but it is always funny. It is a great counterpoint to Josh Bixlers straightforward sincerity. I love them both, but Josh Scott makes me laugh. He is a great asset to Flite Test.
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sailorJohn on July 30, 2014
Flitetest is should have distanced it's self from the Trappy fiasco from the start !
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VadimR on July 31, 2014
Great video but it shows that even you guys have different definitions for drones.

Josh Scott nailed it, unfortunately someone not familiar with Flite Test might not get the sarcasm/humor of it.
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RC Cola on July 30, 2014
You can always count on Josh Scott for a good laugh.
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Wingingit74 on July 30, 2014
As much as we love Josh Scott's humor, you guys have a great opportunity to teach the average Joe what a drone is compared to flying RC, but you instead added some dry humor which I feel it will confuse people... sorry Josh Scott, but I won't be sharing this video.
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Flying Fox on September 4, 2014
VERY GOOD Keep up the good work.
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andre on July 30, 2014
Josh Scott you are the best.
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What is a Drone?