In an unfolding battle over U.S. skies, it’s man versus drone.
Aerial surveyors, photographers and moviemaking pilots are increasingly losing business to robots that often can do their jobs faster, cheaper and better.
That competition, paired with concerns about midair collisions with drones, has made commercial pilots some of the fiercest opponents to unmanned aircraft. And now these aviators are fighting back, lobbying regulators for strict rules for the devices and reporting unauthorized drone users to authorities.
Jim Williams, head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s unmanned-aircraft office, said that many FAA investigations into commercial-drone flights begin with tips from manned-aircraft pilots who compete with those drones. “They’ll let us know that, ’Hey, I’m losing all my business to these guys. They’re not approved. Go investigate,’” Mr. Williams said at a drone conference last year. “We will investigate those.”