PITTSBURGH (KDKA) –- Most people call them drones, but technically they’re unmanned aerial vehicles. Whatever their name, they’re in very high demand, especially for commercial video.

But for now, the federal government wants them grounded, much to the dismay of local businesses and organizations that want to use them.

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When VisitPittsburgh wanted to showcase the city to attract out-of-town conventioneers and visitors, they turned to a local video company with drones. The result is the kind of spectacular aerial video that has become the industry standard for promotional agencies seeking to drum up business.

“Our other competitors around the world are using this technology to focus on another city, and we want to use it as well,” VisitPittsburgh CEO Craig Davis said. “So for us, it’s an absolute need. Our city is gorgeous, and we need this kind of technology to show off what we have.”

The Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon hired a local company to shoot the start of the race and come up with beautiful shots along the course with the aim of attracting more out-of-town runners next year.

But citing concerns about privacy invasion and spying, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wants such usage to stop, and the city has its own worries about the potential of drones for public alarm.

“With major events with a proliferation of people in one spot, the use of drones might cause a little bit of panic,” Sonya Toler with Pittsburgh Public Safety said.

“We saw some of that at PNC Park during the ballgame,” she added, referring to an incident in June when a man decided to fly a drone over the park during a game with the Mets.

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While the city did not arrest the man responsible for his unauthorized use of a drone over PNC Park, it has since made Pittsburgh a no-fly zone for all unmanned commercial aircraft.

“The mayor would like organizations, like the marathon and VisitPittsburgh, to be able to use those drones,” Toler said. “But, until we get those guidelines, even the mayor is saying we need to cool our heels until we have some direction.”

It’s a complicated question and federal regulators are taking their time. For now, they want to review each use on a case-by-case basis, leaving local companies and the folks who want to use them in limbo.

Local realtors are especially miffed. They say their hands have been tied from using drone videos to market their properties, both outside and in.

“People want to use this service and the government is saying no because they haven’t written the rules,” Mike Suley with the Pittsburgh Realtors Association said. “When will they write the rules? The realtors are ready, the customers are ready. When will the government say, ‘OK, here’s the green light’?”

The answer is more than a year away. The FAA want to develop new airspace restriction and permitting processes, and it is taking its time. For now, the use of drones is going on under the radar, so to speak.

FAA, Police Investigating Drone Over PNC Park During Pirates – Mets Game (6/27/2014)
Marathon Buzzed By Drones They Hired (5/5/2014)
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