Tag Archives: FAA Drones

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.


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.

CNN gets FAA clearance for drone journalism

Looks like Back to the Future II was right again, drones may soon be used for news-gathering. 

CNN has announced that in a first program of its kind, the news giant is working with the FAA to advance its efforts in launching camera-equipped drones for journalism and reporting purposes.


Since last year, the cable news network has been studying the use of drones for news-gathering by teaming up with researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who has played an integral role in collecting data. The FAA said it will analyze that information to develop rules and acceptable regulations around these unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Our aim is to get beyond hobby-grade equipment and to establish what options are available and workable to produce high quality video journalism,” urged David Vigilante, CNN’s Senior Vice President of Legal.

While earlier efforts have been in the works, CNN’s new announcement signifies that the media company has made substantial progress and that the FAA will seek to accelerate the work required to commercialize the technology.

Most recently, FAA had allocated a couple of largely uninhabited regions across the U.S. to test the commercial use of drones. At the moment, the federal agency only allows certain lightweight drones for flights of up to 400 feet. However, as CNN reports, the FAA is expected to downgrade a few of the laws this year, as drone tech is becoming more ubiquitous — which was clearly evident at CES 2015.


Aside from journalism, drones offer a number of advantageous real-world applications, ranging from disaster relief and farming to filmmaking and real estate. Several other companies are also making significant investments in UAVs as well, including Facebook, Amazon and Google, which will surely help spur the movement.

“Unmanned aircraft offer news organizations significant opportunities. We hope this agreement with CNN and the work we are doing with other news organizations and associations will help safely integrate unmanned news gathering technology and operating procedures into the National Airspace System,” explained FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

Lights, cameras, drones! FAA approves use of UAVs for film

This week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken a big step forward on drones: It has authorized six filmmaking companies to use unmanned aircraft.


In an effort that marks a giant milestone for commercial drone use in the United States, the FAA granted each of the six companies waivers from regulations on general flight rules, pilot certification and equipment mandates designed for traditional aircraft as long as they meet certain conditions for safety. The agency is currently working with a seventh company on a similar drone approval and has at least 40 additional waiver requests pending for commercial use of UAVs, The New York Times reports.

While the FAA has previously approved commercial drone use for Alaskan oil operations, FAA’s decision is certainly the first exemption of its kind. Now, the companies will be permitted to fly small drones equipped with cameras on closed sets; though, the FAA did say the aircraft must be inspected before each flight and may only be operated during the day, while any accidents or other related incidents must be reported.

As the Washington Post writes, the civil drone industry has been pressuring the FAA to relax that ban and to develop new regulations designed to safely integrate UAVs into the country’s air traffic system. “While we’re still waiting for those formal rules, the FAA is now saying that making movies with drones, or TV shows, or advertisements, or anything else you might do on a closed production set, is legal — so long as you can prove it’s safe.”

This decision will surely pave a path towards more approvals for drone use throughout agriculture, industrial inspections, real estate, as well as countless other cases — many of which are listed here.

The FAA shared that it is in the process of evaluating requests from nearly 50 companies, including Amazon, who last month teamed up with 3D RoboticsDJI Innovations and Parrot to form a small UAV coalition aspiring to represent commercial uses of drones, establish a code of conduct and educate the public about benefits of the technology.

“There has been a lot of interest around this technology lately, and I have determined that using unmanned aircraft for this purpose does not pose a risk to national airspace users,”  stated Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.


UAVs have been popular choice among Hollywood producers, particularly given their ability to fly and capture otherwise unimaginable shots. Believe it or not, there have already been several box office hits that featured drone footage (taken from locations outside of the U.S.), including Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hunger Games and The Dark Knight Rises. 

“We shot Fast & Furious 6 over in Moscow, and we’ve been up in Canada,” explained Preston Ryon, Co-Owner of Snaproll Media LLC, one of the recently-approved companies. The other companies who received drone use exemptions included Astraeus Aerial, HeliVideo Productions LLC and RC Pro Productions Consulting LLC.

Chris Dodd, Chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, proclaimed that the FAA’s exemption mark “an important day for the [film] industry that will create a climate where more production is done at home.”

It’s safe to say that Hollywood’s exemption is merely the beginning. As these drones — many of which are powered by Atmel AVR microcontrollers — continue to become more affordable, accessible and easier to use, we can expect a future that’ll be both autonomous and airborne. With more than 15,000+ DIY drones ready to take flight,