June 23, 2016

Man flying large drone in a park

A recent initiative by the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA has introduced some new rules for Unmanned Aerial System operations. An official announcement revealed an exclusive plan contributing to the safe flying of drones while sharing the skies with other commercial aircraft. A special permission has been granted to more than 5,300 commercial drones by the FAA till date. With these new rules being implemented soon it is expected to create great opportunities to thousands of drone pilots. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International believes that these set of rules can create more than 70,000 jobs in three years and a whopping $13.6 billion can be generated, making quite an impact in the economy of the USA. Let us get down to the nitty-gritty of the rules and try to understand them for the benefit of the commercial drone users and prospective buyers.

  • Drone operators must be at least 16 years of age.
  • It is mandatory to pass an aeronautics test every 2 years or 24 months for certification.
  • The drones must weigh 55 pounds or less.
  • The commercial drones are permitted to fly lower than 400 feet in daylight.
  • The Unmanned aerial systems must be within sight of the drone operator or an observer who is constantly in contact with the operator while on a flying mission.
  • Evening flying operations are allowed if the drone displays visible lights for 3 miles.
  • Flights at night and flying beyond what the drone operator can view could be approved by waiver.
  • Again, flight operations by drones over people not connected with the flying mission could be approved only by waiver.
  • The operator is required to read, speak, write and understand English.
  • The small UAS to be registered with the FAA prior to flight.

The Transportation Secretary, Antony Foxx, has lauded this rule as a ‘major milestone’ and explained how they wanted to strike the right balance between innovation and safety. The main aim of introducing these rules is to streamline drone activities which are now a fast growing sector by demonstrating safety measures to the drones and people involved. Michael Huerta, the FAA Administrator said that the research on automated programming overcrowded areas accessed for deliveries is conducted and due for approval for flights of that nature. Major corporate giants like Amazon, Google and Walmart have started testing drones for deliveries. Initially, the FAA proposed commercial rules in February 2015 and the FAA fully integrated the skies with commercial drones by September at the insistence of the Congress. Drone companies and operators are not very happy about the slow developments in getting the rules approved and operational. Airline pilots are apprehensive about the collision with small UAS which can be fatal to their aircrafts and lives. They have reported sighting more than one thousand and four hundred drones in a span of 14 months ending January 2016. The authenticity of these reports has been questioned by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, a group of 1, 88,000 hobbyists. They reported only 46 incidences of near misses and no air collisions. The proposed rules for commercial drone flying create an improved regulatory environment by dealing with uncertainties in the law. The main focus is to get civil operations and commercial operations of unmanned aerial vehicle sharing the skies in unison. According to the FAA, drones are used for construction surveys, inspections, agricultural monitoring, research and study by universities and search and rescue missions. With so many benefits in drone flying, the rules ensure safe ways of sharing the skies with passenger planes. Even when the new rules are welcomed by the drone industry and its users, there is a conflict between the federal government and the states. As per the reports by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the states lack uniformity in following rules and each one has their own set of policies when it comes to drone flying. The laws governing UAVs have been adopted by at least 31 states, and around 18 of them require search warrants for police to use drones for surveillance. The purpose of the new rule is to eliminate many cumbersome and expensive requirements that are mandatory on commercial pilots this includes a requirement to hold an authorization certificate and a notice issued before every mission. The regulatory norms for drone safety are in place, but the method used to enforce these laws and how the rules have to be more definite for the industry to make full use of the rules. In the coming years, bigger drones and hobbyists must also be included in the framework for effective sharing of flying space. The drone manufacturers and drone pilots welcome these rules as it helps them to professionally equip themselves in an organized sector


For more information on the subject of the latest drone laws, check out this article by The Daily Universe

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