Drones topic of Seminars at Steamboat event Thursday | SteamboatToday.com

Drones topic of Seminars at Steamboat event Thursday

Teresa Ristow

Craig Whitlock

— Small, remotely piloted drones have surged in popularity over the past few years, but clear regulations governing the sometimes dangerous, nuisance aircrafts are far behind.

Nationwide, the unmanned aerial vehicles — which can be picked up for as little as a few hundred dollars — have interfered with California firefighting efforts, had near collisions with commercial aircraft and invaded the personal privacy of more than one backyard sunbathing teen this summer.

"It's not tricky at all to have one spy in somebody's window," said Craig Whitlock, a Washington Post national security reporter who published a piece on drones Monday titled "Rogue drones a growing nuisance across the U.S." in the Washington Post.

Whitlock is speaking Thursday evening at Strings Pavilion as part of Seminars at Steamboat.

The relevance of drone use and the absence of regulations have come into the forefront of the news media in the past year, Whitlock said.

"The reason they're so relevant right now is because there's been this real boom in sales over the last couple of years. Regular people can buy drones for a couple hundred or three hundred bucks," Whitlock said. "Even a couple years ago, it was pretty rare to find these things."

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While draft FFA regulations would require drones used for commercial purposes, such as photography or real estate, to have an operator who has passed a test, registered the drone and paid a fee, no regulations would require the pilot to acquire a license or demonstrate flying skills.

Additionally, there are no FAA regulations for those everyday citizens flying "hobby drones.”

The only laws that might apply to these drone drivers regarding privacy and surveillance were created with helicopters in mind, not low-flying photography drones, Whitlock said.

"The laws on the books now — they had no idea that anything like this would be possible," he said. "It's kind of a legal mess."

Tickets for Whitlock's free talk will be distributed beginning at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, with the program beginning at 5 p.m.

A one-hour edited version of the seminar will be aired on KUNC at 9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23.

For more information about Seminars at Steamboat, visit seminarsatsteamboat.org.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

If you go:

What: Seminars at Steamboat’s “Drones: Can they Revolutionize Aviation without Endangering Safety and Privacy?” with Craig Whitlock, Washington Post national security reporter

When: 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6 (tickets distributed beginning at 4:15 p.m.)

Where: Strings Pavilion, 950 Strings Road

Cost: Free