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Ask the Times: I got a drone for Christmas. What can I do with it?

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Q: I got a drone for Christmas. Can I fly it anywhere I want? Will the government come get me? Is it true I can get my textbooks delivered by Amazon the way the kid did in the comic strip?

A: Answer to question 1: You can fly your drone for "personal enjoyment," says Lynn Lunsford, the Mid-State Public Affairs Manager for the Federal Aviation Administration. To question 2: If your drone can fly above 400 feet, which is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, the government might come get you, so stay under 400 feet.

If you are a newspaper, said Lunsford, using a drone with a camera attached so you can take photographs of, say, oil leaking into Lake Conway to put in the paper, then the answer to your first question is no, because the FAA does not permit any commercial use of private drones. Lunsford actually said such use was "not yet permitted," which means that Amazon is not laboring in vain developing its drone delivery system, "Prime Air." Amazon's website cautions, however, that "putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance the technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations."

If you live in Australia, however, you can get your rental textbooks delivered by a startup company, Zookal. It will make deliveries in Sydney.

The FAA announced in December that it has given permission to six public organizations to develop drones (unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS in govspeak) and test them to determine how they may be used safely in American airspace. The six test site operators are the University of Alaska, which will test drones in Hawaii and Oregon; the state of Nevada, which will focus on air traffic control questions; New York's Griffis International Airport in Rome, N.Y.; which will work on testing and evaluation; the North Dakota Department of Commerce, which will test in varying airspace; Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, safety and airworthiness testing, and Virginia Tech, which will do "failure mode" testing. Read more at www.faa.gov under the News tab.

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