Federal government / Technology

This Delaware man wants drone-friendly regulations from DC. Here’s why he’s still waiting

Daniel Herbert found out the hard way it's a national security concern. For now, the founder of Skygear Solutions is hosting an International Drone Day event March 14.

Daniel Herbert testing out a custon DJI Flamewheel F550 he built. (Via Facebook)

Daniel Herbert has dozens of clients lined up to support his business.
But there’s one small problem. He’s in the drone business, and right now, it’s illegal to use unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial purposes.
And the drone that recently landed on the White House Lawn late last month — that’s not helping the case in convincing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to lift commercial restrictions on operation the devices.
“If you want to fly legitimately for commercial reasons, the policies and everything you have to apply for is terribly restrictive,” said Herbert, who founded and opened Skygear Solutions last summer in Wilmington. “With the advent of drones and videography, the industry stands to take a serious hit. My personal opinion is that those in a position to make changes are the ones dragging their feet.”
Herbert’s business in Wilmington — which he says, is one-of-a-kind in Delaware — began providing aerial video, photography and editing to real estate agents, car dealers and so on.

It's no different than gun control. Rules in the U.S. aren’t going to hinder a terrorist using a drone.

His business doesn’t focus on video and photography much anymore, or at least until the FAA eases up on its commercial use restrictions. Since shifting gears, Skygear Solutions has focused on selling and repairing drones, creating custom builds for clients, and providing flying lessons. (The regulatory environment drove one Delawarean to Canada to start his drone business there, as we recently reported.)
Herbert plans to expand his business to include education about drones and drone safety, as well as a certification program for pilots.
“Personally, sales would definitely grow [if commercial use was allowed]. I have businesses literally waiting in the wings,” Herbert said. “People don’t want to spend $2,000 or $3,000 for something they might not be able to use. [If restrictions ease up,] I could market directly to businesses like landscapers and roofers, real estate, car dealerships, pest control, search and rescue, and law enforcement.”
Herbert works with his wife, as well as an undergraduate University of Delaware student who is a pilot, builder and technician himself, Herbert said.
In addition to flying and promoting his business in Delaware, Herbert also attends events and conferences, advocating for less restrictive drone policies.
He said he recently attended the Department of Homeland Security’s Unmanned Aircraft Summit, took notes about the event and posted them online.
In his posted notes online, he said, he provided an honest recap of what happened at the conference — the message, he said, “The DJI Phantom is the terrorist weapon of choice.”
He said his site received a good bit of traffic when he posted the notes. Then, something unexpected happened.
“Within two hours, an agent from Homeland Security called me and asked me to take down my notes,” Herbert said. “I pulled it down. The growth of a legitimate business doesn’t need to have that kind of attention.”
After the incident, Herbert was interviewed by Wired Magazine and the New York Times.
Herbert continues to advocate on behalf of drones, and regularly looks out for conferences to attend and Senate hearings to watch on C-Span. This gray area, he said — where drones aren’t totally restricted, but also not widely welcomed — is hindering a variety of different industries. Currently, he added, less than 20 commercial licenses have been issued by the FAA; plus, they cost more than $25,000 a pop.
“There is little to say bad about the growth of this industry. There are so many cool things to use them for. The difficulty is going to be containing the flyers who don’t want to behave,” Herbert said. “It’s no different than gun control. Guns serve a purpose, unfortunately, in this society, but there are still going to be bad guys with guns. Rules in the U.S. aren’t going to hinder a terrorist using a drone.”
Aside from the uphill battle Herbert and others are fighting, he said he wants to highlight the good that drones can do.
That’s why he and others are taking part in International Drone Day on March 14. Team Delaware will host an event on that day which includes guest speakers, exhibitions, flight safety and preparation, a drone search and rescue mission and custom builds on the spot.
Follow Team Delaware’s Facebook page for updates on location and time.
Herbert is hoping to draw drone enthusiasts from across the East Coast. (Via Facebook)

Herbert is hoping to draw drone enthusiasts from across the East Coast. (Via Facebook)

Companies: Skygear Solutions

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