Last year, in the farming town of Deer Trail, Colorado, Phillip Steel proposed a town ordinance that would allow its 600 residents to purchase $25 permits to "hunt" drones flying in their airspace. Much like he hoped to do with the drones, Steel's ordinance was shot down by 73 percent of voters. The FAA released a statement following this proposal, saying, "Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane."
Local governments are beginning to seek greater control over the drone flights. In San Francisco, drone operators have increasingly begun to fly their aircraft around the Golden Gate Bridge to gather footage and photos. Several of the drones have crashed into the structure's roadway. While commercial drones are strictly regulated, recreational usage of drones continues to be fairly free, and some drones have been spotted gathering photos and footage behind preexisting barriers that prohibited photography in certain areas.
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This issue has evolved into one of national security and privacy as concerns have mounted over the uninhibited access that is seemingly granted to recreational drone photographers and videographers.
Drones have flown over the Grand Canyon, disturbed sheep in Zion National Park and even landed in a geyser in Yellowstone. After several incidents, the National Park Service officially published a no-drone flight policy for the park system last year. This ban could be a sign that further regulations may come that restrict drones, even recreational ones, from being able to fly and capture photos or video in certain locations. It could be expected for similar regulations to emerge for the airspace above private property and other critical infrastructures around the U.S.
There are some sensitive places over which you won't likely ever be allowed to fly your drone: The FAA is trying to declare Washington, D.C. a "No Drone Zone" following a series of drone-related scares around the White House.
(Disclosure: CNBC parent company NBCUniversal is also part of a coalition of 10 news organizations testing drones for newsgathering purposes, in a partnership with Virginia Tech University.)
—By Andrew Wood, special to CNBC.com