Bart Jansen, "Orvillecopter" (2012) (photo by Dennis van Zuijlekom/Flickr)

Bart Jansen, “Orvillecopter” (2012) (photo by Dennis van Zuijlekom/Flickr)

Regulations being proposed by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could clip the wings of artists who use drones in their practice. Laws currently on the books with regards to the use of drones (or Unmanned Aircraft Systems) only govern commercial use, but the new rules that will likely be put before Congress for approval in September could curtail artistic uses of drones, The Art Newspaper‘s Rachel Corbett reports.

Artists occupy an ambiguous place vis-à-vis the rules currently governing commercial use of drones, for which a license is required. While artists qualify as recreational drone users who are not subject to the current FAA regulations, if they try to sell works created with the use of a drone — like, for instance, graffiti artist KATSU’s drone paintings — they could in theory be considered commercial users and expected to procure the appropriate licenses and permits. The more stringent rules may seek to reduce such ambiguities. They will also be aimed at curtailing security and privacy risks associated with unmanned aircraft by formalizing the FAA’s best practices for drone use such as “Don’t fly above 400 feet,” “Keep your unmanned aircraft within sight,” and “Please respect the privacy of everyone. No taking pictures of people if they are not expecting it!” The regulations are expected to restrict drone flights to daytime.

“The price of unmanned aircraft has come down, and this newer and more powerful technology is more affordable to more people, yet many are not familiar with the rules of flying,” FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta said last month. “In previous years, many model aircraft enthusiasts were drawn to the hobby by an interest in aviation and in developing stick and rudder skills and other aviation skills. Today, those enthusiasts are still among us and are using unmanned aircraft, but a large segment of the market for multi-rotor unmanned aircraft is photography enthusiasts.”

While the FAA has struggled to keep pace with the popularization of drones in the US, some cities have introduced municipal laws to ensure they are used safely and respectfully. Last week London’s Metropolitan Police Service issued a warning that the law prohibits citizens from operating drones within 150 meters (492 feet) of “any congested area” and within 50 meters (164 feet) of a building not owned by the drone’s operator, according to the Daily Mail.

In New York City there is no municipal ordinance currently regulating the use of drones, but if the NYPD rules that a particular drone pilot is putting the public risk, it could charge him or her with Reckless Endangerment. The days of lawless drone piloting may be numbered in New York, though. A bill introduced by Councilman Daniel Garodnick (D-Manhattan) would effectively ban flying unmanned aircraft within city limits, and it has caused an uproar in the model airplane community.

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...