FAA: Commercial drone use to take flight

June 21, 2016  - By 1 Comments

Today, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), opening pathways towards fully integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace.

These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives, the FAA said in a press release.

“We are part of a new era in aviation, and the potential for unmanned aircraft will make it safer and easier to do certain jobs, gather information, and deploy disaster relief,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We look forward to working with the aviation community to support innovation, while maintaining our standards as the safest and most complex airspace in the world.”

According to industry estimates, the rule could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.

uav-Echodyne-WThe new rule, which takes effect in late August, offers safety regulations for unmanned aircraft drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations.

The rule’s provisions are designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground. The regulations require pilots to keep an unmanned aircraft within visual line of sight. Operations are allowed during daylight and during twilight if the drone has anti-collision lights. The new regulations also address height and speed restrictions and other operational limits, such as prohibiting flights over unprotected people on the ground who aren’t directly participating in the UAS operation.

The FAA is offering a process to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. The FAA will make an online portal available to apply for these waivers in the months ahead.

“With this new rule, we are taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect public safety,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “But this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”

Under the final rule, the person actually flying a drone must be at least 16 years old and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate. To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, an individual must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate. If qualifying under the latter provision, a pilot must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months and must take a UAS online training course provided by the FAA. The TSA will conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuance of a certificate.

Operators are responsible for ensuring a drone is safe before flying, but the FAA is not requiring small UAS to comply with current agency airworthiness standards or aircraft certification. Instead, the remote pilot will simply have to perform a preflight visual and operational check of the small UAS to ensure that safety-pertinent systems are functioning property.  This includes checking the communications link between the control station and the UAS.

Although the new rule does not specifically deal with privacy issues in the use of drones, and the FAA does not regulate how UAS gather data on people or property, the FAA is acting to address privacy considerations in this area. The FAA strongly encourages all UAS pilots to check local and state laws before gathering information through remote sensing technology or photography.

As part of a privacy education campaign, the agency will provide all drone users with recommended privacy guidelines as part of the UAS registration process and through the FAA’s B4UFly mobile app. The FAA also will educate all commercial drone pilots on privacy during their pilot certification process; and will issue new guidance to local and state governments on drone privacy issues. The FAA’s effort builds on the privacy “best practices” the National Telecommunications and Information Administration published last month as the result of a year-long outreach initiative with privacy advocates and industry.

Part 107 will not apply to model aircraft.  Model aircraft operators must continue to satisfy all the criteria specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (which will now be codified in Part 101), including the stipulation they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes.

Visit the FAA website for more information on the FAA and UAS.

Reaction

Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), issued the following statement:

“Today’s release of the final small UAS rule by the FAA is a critical milestone in the integration process, and a long-awaited victory for American businesses and innovators. It establishes a clear regulatory framework and helps to reduce many barriers to civil and commercial operations, allowing anyone who follows the rules to fly in the national airspace.

“Accelerating civil and commercial UAS operations will not only help businesses harness tremendous potential of UAS, it will also help unlock the economic impact and job creation potential of the technology. Once UAS are fully integrated into the national airspace and become more widely used, the industry will continue to grow as a job creator and generate significant economic impact.

“Our economic report projects that the expansion of UAS technology will create more than 100,000 jobs and generate more than $82 billion to the economy in the first decade following integration. Whether it’s aiding search and rescue missions, advancing scientific research, responding to natural disasters, or helping farmers care for their crops, UAS are capable of saving time, saving money and most importantly, saving lives.

“The final rule allows for many uses of small UAS and a streamlined waiver process to expand applications. We are looking forward to additional rulemaking which has already begun with AUVSI’s support, to enable more complex operations. We need to make sure we are doing all we can to support the UAS industry’s growth and development; otherwise we risk stunting a still-nascent industry and restricting the many beneficial uses of this technology.”

National Association of Realtors (NAR) President Tom Salomone called the rules a win for the industry.

“We’ve worked hard to strike a responsible balance that protects the safety and privacy of individuals, while also ensuring Realtors can put drones to good use,” said Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida. “That effort just took another big step forward. The rules unveiled today will help more real estate professionals take flight, making the efficiency and innovation that drones have to offer available to a much broader base of operators.”

The FAA’s announcement marks a long-fought victory for Realtors. Since early 2014, NAR has worked with the FAA and industry partners to integrate drones into the national airspace for commercial use. NAR wrote to the FAA on numerous occasions to weigh in on the final Small UAS Rule, and testified before Congress to support the use of drones in real estate.

Despite eliminating the requirement that operators hold a pilot’s license, anyone looking to fly drones commercially will still have to comply with strict requirements designed to protect people on the ground.

Drones are useful in a number of real estate-related applications, including marketing properties, assisting with appraisals, facilitating insurance claims and overseeing utility work. While many real estate professionals with pilot’s licenses have already put drones to use in these arenas, the new rules are expected to open the door for additional operators to do the same.

Despite the significant progress made in the FAA’s final rule, NAR’s work on this issue will continue. NAR is calling for eased restrictions on a “micro” category of drones; drones in this category weigh less than four pounds and present a much smaller safety risk than certain drones in the under-55 pound category covered by the rule released today.

NAR also believes there is an ongoing need for a drone strategy that allows for “beyond visual line-of-sight” flights, or those where the operator cannot physically see the drone throughout the entire operation. These flights are particularly important for aerial photography across large buildings or tracts of land.

Salomone praised the FAA for their efforts in crafting the rule.

“Getting here wasn’t easy, and the FAA is to be commended for listening to the concerns of real estate professionals throughout the rulemaking process,” he said. “We’re entering a new stage of drone use in real estate, and no doubt there will be additional questions and challenges ahead. NAR will continue educating its members on issues important to the safe, responsible use of drones so they can grow their business and better serve their clients.”

The National Association of Realtors, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

1 Comment on "FAA: Commercial drone use to take flight"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

Post a Comment