River Valley Leader Keeps Plan for 'Toy Helicopter' Coverage

by Kate Knable  on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 12:00 am  

Rick Fahr of the River Valley Leader plans to use a UAV for shooting video. 

Rick Fahr, publisher of the River Valley Leader of Russellville, expects to launch by Feb. 1 an unmanned aerial vehicle for shooting video.

Fahr described the UAVs the Leader was considering in December as “beefed-up toy helicopters.”

The Leader is an online-only news publication that reports on local news in Pope County and parts of Johnson and Yell counties.

The UAV the Leader’s leadership ordered is about 2.5 feet by 2.5 feet in size and has six rotors, Fahr said. The UAV will be outfitted with a video camera about the size of a business card, he said.

The cost of the contraption was around $3,000, Fahr said. Fahr’s plan is to provide the Leader’s website with live streaming video via UAV-mounted camera.

The Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t require a special license for UAVs flown under 400 feet, which is where the Leader plans to use the UAV, Fahr said. “It’s free air space that anyone can fly in,” he said.

A reader emailed your Outtakes scribe recently, sounding skeptical about Fahr’s plan (as reported in the Dec. 10 issue of Arkansas Business) and suggesting I take a look at some federal regulations of unmanned aircraft systems. I did.

According to the FAA website, fliers of model aircraft are not required to get FAA approval. The site further states: “FAA guidance says that model aircraft flights should be kept below 400 feet above ground level (AGL), should be flown a sufficient distance from populated areas and full scale aircraft, and are not for business purposes.”

Fahr, on the other hand, said, “I don’t see how that can be enforceable.”

“In my mind, it’s no different than putting a camera on top of a building to shoot photos off,” Fahr said. “Until someone tells us differently, that’s where we’re going.”

Fahr double checked later, however.

A representative of the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics “acknowledged that the rules and regs for small-scale UAVs are more plans than laws at this point,” Fahr told Outtakes in an email. “So, I’ll keep checking, but I have no doubt that our project will fly.”



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