Tag Archives: Drone Regulations

FAA releases proposed drone laws


Newly-announced FAA rules might allow thousands of business drones in the next few years. 


Following latest reports of a leaked document, the FAA has announced the regulations that will allow routine use of small drones in the United States. Before becoming finalized, the rules must go through a comment period, during which the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the rules. Those of you who may recall, back in 2012, Congress had required the FAA to create rules around the integration of small drones by 2015.

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Once the order is finalized, the Washington Post shares that the FAA estimates that more than 7,000 businesses will obtain drone permits within three years. Furthermore, based on the recently-revealed document, companies would not be permitted to fly drones over long distances which would effectively preclude expedited delivery efforts ranging from pizza makers to Amazon. The rules, however, are expected to be modified and loosened over the coming decade as drone technology advances. For the time being, the long-awaited draft also limits speed to 100 miles per hour as well as altitude of flight to 500 feet above ground level.

These regulations follow in the footsteps of other countries, such as Canada and the UK, who have already made tremendous progress in devising rulings around commercial drone operation.

Meanwhile, the proposed FAA rules for small drones would not apply to people who fly drones for fun or for recreational purposes, the Washington Post adds. Small hobby drones — many of which are powered by AVR microcontrollers —  have become increasingly popular throughout the United States, thanks in part to the burgeoning Maker Movement. But, under a law passed by Congress in 2012, the FAA is largely prohibited from regulating them as long as they do not interfere with air traffic.

Operational Limitations

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer.
  • At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
  • Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
  • Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).
  • Must yield right-of-way to other aircraft, manned or unmanned.
  • May use visual observer (VO) but not required.
  • First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
  • Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
  • Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.
  • Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
  • No operations are allowed in Class A (18,000 feet & above) airspace.
  • Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission.
  • Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission
  • No person may act as an operator or VO for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one time.
  • No careless or reckless operations.
  • Requires preflight inspection by the operator.
  • A person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft if he or she knows or has reason to know of any physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.
  • Proposes a microUAS option that would allow operations in Class G airspace, over people not involved in the operation, provided the operator certifies he or she has the requisite aeronautical knowledge to perform the operation.

Operator Certification and Responsibilities

  • Pilots of a small UAS would be considered “operators”.
  • Operators would be required to:
    • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
    • Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
    • Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires).
    • Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months. o Be at least 17 years old.
    • Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule.
    • Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.
    • Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.

Aircraft Requirements

  • FAA airworthiness certification not required. However, operator must maintain a small UAS in condition for safe operation and prior to flight must inspect the UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation. Aircraft Registration required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft).
  • Aircraft markings required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft). If aircraft is too small to display markings in standard size, then the aircraft simply needs to display markings in the largest practicable manner.

Model Aircraft

  • Proposed rule would not apply to model aircraft that satisfy all of the criteria specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95.
  • The proposed rule would codify the FAA’s enforcement authority in part 101 by prohibiting model aircraft operators from endangering the safety of the NAS.

Interested in reading more? You can find the entire FAA draft here.

Drone leaders form small UAV coalition

Amazon is going on the offensive as it seeks federal approval to test its planned Prime Air drone delivery system, USA Today reports. Though you may not receive a drone-delivered package this year, the online retailer is making moves to spur development.

To facilitate drone use, Amazon recently came together with several makers of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to create a coalition. Writing for USA Today, Mike Snider explains that such efforts are necessary given the fact that the advancement of commercial drones spans across several federal agencies including the FAA, which governs airspace, and the FCC, with oversight of communications frequencies drones would use. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also has rules in the works regarding privacy.

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“Amazon Prime Air is participating in several groups… that share Congress’ goal of getting small UAVs flying commercially in the United States safely and soon,” said Paul Misener, Amazon Vice President of Global Public Policy.

For many, the term “drone” seems to conjure images of military use and war weaponry. As a result, the mere thought of these futuristic flying devices tends to pose security and privacy concerns to several people. When, however, UAVs used for defense purposes and those that may one day may buzz around the skies are quite different, and in fact, may change the world — for the better. According to ex-Wired editor and 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson, the (AVR-powered) DIY drone community will soon have more than 15,000 drones flying, compared to some 7,000 drones in use worldwide by military forces. Martha Stewart, known by many for her expertise in and around the home, has also shared her love for these flying robots in an essay that appeared on TIME Magazine’s website on July 29th, writing that drones could be “a useful tool.”

“This is uncharted territory,” says Anderson, Co-Founder of 3D Robotics. His firm recently announced that it had joined Amazon, Aerialtronics, AirwareDJI InnovationsGoogle[x]GoPro and Parrot in founding the small UAV coalition, which aspires to represent commercial uses of drones, establish a code of conduct and educate the public about benefits of the technology. “They [Amazon] have a well-established presence in Washington and they were able to kick-start the mechanics of this coalition so we could quickly join and get moving.” Anderson added that companies need a “safe sandbox” to begin testing applications.

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Globally, drone spending is expected to increase from $6.4 billion this year to $11.5 billion annually a decade from now, as projected by aerospace and defense industry research firm the Teal Group. Both Amazon and the new coalition have retained Washington, D.C. law firm Akin Gump to assist in lobbying efforts. The online retail giant is already among two dozen other companies that have sought exemptions from the FAA to begin tests with drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and fly below 400 feet, USA Today reveals.

In its filing to the FAA, Amazon said that so far it has only been able to test its drones inside its Seattle R&D lab or in other countries. Its goal is to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less via the rotor-powered flying machines. “One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks,” wrote Amazon’s v Misener in the filing.

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“A number of companies are looking at getting into philanthropic purposes,” explains Michael Drobac, one of the lobbyists at Akin Gump. “They’re also looking at recreational uses, mapping and aerial photography — the possibilities are limitless.”

Drone potential goes far beyond package delivery; in fact, we recently listed 18 amazing ways the aerial vehicles are already being used today. Interested in learning more about drone use and the formation of the coalition? Read the entire USA Today article here.