ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 4 - Issue: 19 - 05/15/2015

Drones in Construction -- FAA Applications Heating Up

Construction industry feedback on proposed new rules for drone use


Since the February 18th announcement of its draft proposed rules for drone use (see ConstructionPro Week Volume 4 - Issue 7), the FAA has received over 4,500 comments, mostly in support of the rules. Although the official 60-day period for comments closed on April 24, the FAA announced it will continue to consider comments as time and resources allow. Posted just yesterday, for example, construction services firm Skanska USA Building Inc. expressed support for the new micro UAS classification:


"We believe that micro UAS can be used for a variety of beneficial purposes in the construction industry, including but not limited to site photos, project progress documentation, site logistics monitoring and management, quality inspections, elevator shaft inspections, and safety inspections. In many cases, these applications would reduce, if not eliminate, the use of manual methods that pose significant safety risks to construction workers. For example, use of a micro UAS to inspect the exterior curtain wall of a mid- or high-rise building could obviate the need for use of a scaffold, lift, crane or suspended platform, all of which pose inherent safety risks for the construction workers involved." [FAA-2015-0150-4544]


However, Skanska requested the FAA reconsider the five nautical mile radius from airport restriction be reconsidered, " this would effectively preclude the use of micro UAS in many urban areas (especially those with multiple airports) where they would be most useful and where a large amount of commercial construction takes place." Skanska went on to suggest that safe operations under 400 feet can be maintained in a tighter radius of an airport, particularly if the operations are limited to the boundaries of the construction site and that air traffic control facilities are notified.


The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) in its submission of April 20, 2015 noted the usefulness of UAS for planning, design, inspection, traffic control and search and rescue. However, WisDOT points out that the FAA's proposed rule that UAS not operate above persons not involved in the UAS's operation would eliminate or severely limit the department's ability to use the UAS. WisDOT recommends that appropriate allowances be made for public agencies and their partners to use UAS on publicly-owned assets in publicly-owned rights-of-way.

FAA Exemption Activity


As of today, the FAA has granted more than 350 exemptions for the commercial use of drones, a dramatic increase from the total of 9 exemptions granted in 2014. The FAA’s experience in reviewing the Section 333 petitions shows they generally fall into two categories: film/television production and aerial data collection. ConstructionPro Network's review of the exemption listings revealed a fairly active interest from the construction community and its service providers.  Here's a list of exemptions granted as of May 14, 2015:


ClaycoSouthern Electric Company
WoolpertDrone Fleet & Aerospace Mgmt., Inc.
Asymmetric TechnologiesSkyPhilly, Inc.
Commonwealth EdisonBechtel Equipment Operations, Inc.
Build Imagery, LLCRoger W Meyer Land Surveying
BNSF Railway CompanyDarling Geomatics
Aetos Group Inc.AirRaid Aerials, LLC
Solusia Air, LLCNixon Engineering Solutions, LLC
Oceaneering International, Inc.Danis Building Construction Company
Montico, Inc.Sevee Maher Engineers Inc.
Phoenix Air UnmannedBalfour Beatty Construction Services
Utility Aerial Services, Inc.Chustz Surveying, Inc.
RW Zollinger Consulting EngineersPPL Electric Utilities Corporation
Rimkus Consulting Group, LLCTrimble Navigation, Ltd
CompassData LLCEarth Forensics, Inc.
Union Pacific RailroadBowman Consulting Group, LTD
Building 10, LLCSan Diego Gas and Electric
Surveying and Mapping, LLCTurner Industries Group LLC
Butler, Fairman and Seufert, Inc.Lamac Engineering Company, Inc.


Recent submitted petitions for exemption from construction industry firms include:


Weaver Consulting GroupTeracon Consultants
Central Oregon Aerial SurveyingBurns & McDonnell Engineering Co. Inc.
Michael Baker International, LLCWohnrade Civil Engineers, Inc.
Coleman EngineeringHSEarchitects
Skanska USA CivilAlex E. Paris Contracting Company
Estimating Concepts, LLCAllied Roofing and Sheet Metal Inc.


Much of the increased activity is due to the FAA's expedited summary grant process, which reduces the need to include repetitious data that has been included in previous exemption approvals for other firms.  In addition, the Agency now allows operations under these exemptions by people who hold a recreational or sport pilot certificate. Previously, Section 333 operators were required to have at least a private pilot certificate. The newly added certificates are easier to obtain, and therefore less costly, than a private pilot certificate.

A third-class medical certificate is no longer required. Now, a Section 333 operator only needs a valid driver’s license to satisfy the medical requirement. This change is consistent with the Agency’s approach for sport pilot certificate holders, who may fly light sport aircraft with a driver’s license and no FAA medical certificate.




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