This past Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued proposed new rules for drones that will loosen up current restrictions on commercial use. Currently, companies that want to take aerial photos of a project are required to get an exemption. The first dozen or so of the 27 exemptions granted to date by the FAA required a commercial pilot license for the operator flying the drone. More recent exemptions loosened this up to a private pilot license in some circumstances. [See FAA Grants Exemptions for Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems to Clayco, Woolpert, Trimble].
The new proposed rules, which may take a year or two to take effect, are posted on the FAA website, where community feedback will be open for 60 days. Here are the basics of the regulations that will apply to drones weighing less than 55 pounds:
- Operators will have to pass a knowledge test to obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating, and renew it every 24 months (private or commercial pilot license and medical exam not required)
- Operators must be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
- Daylight operations only and the drone must be able to be seen at all times by the operator or a visual observer (this opens up for FPV if all other requirements are satisfied)
- Commercial drones will only be allowed to fly under 500 feet and no faster than 100 mph
- Drones will have to be registered with the FAA and carry identification markings
- Flights over people are prohibited and visibility has to be over three miles
For a complete summary of the major provisions, click here.
For the Full draft of Part 107, click here.
We believe this is a great first step, much less restrictive than anticipated by most people in the industry. Here are some unanswered questions we have. What if a project has a building greater than 500 feet high. Can the drone not fly over the building? Can it not be used to inspect the curtain wall above 500 feet? Would it be allowable if all the people on site are wearing hardhats and have notice that a drone will fly overhead at a specific time and are told to avoid being under the flight path? Tell us your reactions to the new rules and what questions you have. Better yet, visit the FAA website and tell them too!*
*To send comments identify docket number FAA-2015-0150 using any of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.
- Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
- Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket Operations in Room W12- 140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
- Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202-493-2251.