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December 21, 2015
Thinking Through the PR of Drones for Kids
 
Give your grandkids an extra-special Christmas present and have them fined (or maybe even jailed) for using it? Whoa! The Federal Aviation Administration has handed itself a potentially huge public relations problem in requiring, as the Amarillo Globe-News reports, “all drones weighing a half-pound or more to be registered in a federal database to combat numerous reports of close calls with aircraft.”

“We’re expecting over the holidays an estimated 400,000 small, unmanned aircraft to be sold and the majority of them are going to be operated by people with little to no experience with the FAA or our safety rules,” says Dallas-based Lynn Lunsford, mid-states public relations officer for the FAA.

“Over the last year,” he adds ominously, “We’ve been experiencing an increasing number of incidents in which unmanned aircraft are flying either too close to airports or in the vicinity of other unmanned aircraft.”

Drones aren’t supposed to fly higher than 400 feet or within five miles of an airport, and clearly they shouldn’t. We’d guess that many entry-level (toy) drones are made outside the U.S. and beyond the FAA’s reach at their source. But threatening drone users with fines or jail seems bizarrely bureaucratic. Couldn’t they ask, and expect, U.S. merchants selling drones to include advisory notices with each package? Maybe this is already done.

But a steep fine or jail? That seems a way to burnish an image for foolhardiness. Couldn't this situation have been thought through by PR cohorts before the holiday shopping season began?

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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