FAA unveils drone rules

The Federal Aviation Administration released Sunday 15 Feb, 2015,  its long-awaited proposal for governing small commercial drones, setting a plan for remote-controlled aircraft to share the skies with passenger planes. “For the FAA to turn this around and be innovative was a real surprise to a lot of us,” said Gretchen West, vice president of […]

The Federal Aviation Administration released Sunday 15 Feb, 2015,  its long-awaited proposal for governing small commercial drones, setting a plan for remote-controlled aircraft to share the skies with passenger planes.

“For the FAA to turn this around and be innovative was a real surprise to a lot of us,” said Gretchen West, vice president of business development and policy at DroneDeploy. “This was a great day for the industry, and there’s still a lot of work that has to be done.”

Key points

  • FAA proposes dropping the requirement for operators to have a private/commercial pilot’s license.
  • FAA proposes dropping the requirement for UAS aircraft certification under 50 Kg.
  • FAA proposes designating a micro UAS specification.
  • FAA proposes permitting operations in class B, C, D and E airspace.
  • FAA proposes enforcing Line Of Sight and and daylight only restrictions .
  • InfoGraphic at USA Today make it easy to understand.

“This will allow the market to grow at a much more rapid pace and makes sense for these low-risk applications,” said Jesse Kallman, director of regulatory affairs at Airware.”

The following provisions are being proposed in the FAA’s Small UAS NPRM.

These are scheduled to take place within the next 90 days, however 18 months has been suggested by those familiar with the FAA.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Read the full NPRM here.
FAA press release here.
FAA: Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PDF)

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