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Feb 27

New Drone Regulations Proposed

FAA Issues Drone Regulation Proposal

Posted on February 27, 2015 — by Nick Reed

On February 15, 2015, the FAA issued a proposed set of regulations for UAV activity that has been in the making for years.  The recent publicity from commercial operators announcing their intentions to use UAVs - like Amazon's instant delivery service - has put some pressure on the FAA to act sooner rather than later.  

The FAA issued a summary of the proposed rules, available here.  

Several take away notes:

  1. These regulations are mere proposals; they are not yet enforceable.  There will be a period of public input and likely amendments before these regulations become effective.
  2. The regulations are applicable to commercial operations and do not regulate "hobby" and "recreational" uses; the following regulations are subject to commercial and non-recreational flights. 
  3. As with other regulated flight, the aircraft, the operator, and the flight itself are all subject to minimum requirements.   

The UAV requirements:

  • While the UAV would not require an airworthiness certificate, as is required for most aircraft, the UAV must be maintained in a "condition for safe operation and prior to flight must inspect the UAV."
  • The UAV must be registered with the FAA and identifiable with markings as with other aircraft.
  • Weight less than 55 pounds.

The Operator requirements:

  • While the operator is not required to obtain a pilot's license, as a speculated possibility, the operator is required to pass an "initial aeronautical knowledge test"
  • Be vetted by the TSA
  • Pass recurrent tests every 24 months. 

The Flight itself:

  • Must remain in visual line of sight of the operator.
  • Not fly over people not directly involved with the operation.
  • May not be flown at night.
  • May not fly faster than 100 mph and not above 500 feet above the ground.

While these rules seem entirely reasonable, it is easy to see that some commercial operators will want several changes.  For example, this regulation likely prohibits Amazon's delivery service due to the line of sight issue and the not flying over uninvolved people issue.  

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposed rules after their publication.  

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