FAA Finally Issues Some Rules On Small Drones

February 16, 2015 | Bucky Turco

On Sunday, the FAA issued its highly anticipated regulations on the civilian use of quadrocopters — or as they’re commonly referred to as, drones. The federal agency set weight, speed, and altitude limits for the remote-controlled flying cameras and outlined requirements for drone operators, such as being vetted by the Transportation Security Administration and taking a written test, the fees of which are expected to be reasonable. According to the document, “The estimated out-of-pocket cost for a small UAS operator to be FAA-certified is less than $300.” Below are some of the highlights.

For many drone enthusiasts, this good news. “I am pleased and encouraged that the FAA has decided to take a sensible, safety-oriented approach to small drone rulemaking,” said drone expert and aviation attorney Peter Sachs to ANIMAL. “Although the proposed rule will not satisfy everyone in every way, I would expect an abundance of public comments that will raise any such concerns. In drafting the NPRM, the FAA appears to have considered the voices of the drone community. I hope and expect they will do the same with the public comments.”

It should be interesting to see how some of these guidelines play out for New Yorkers, considering our proximity to airports and population density. “When flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower with prior notice of the operation,” reads one of the proposed rules. Or this one: “Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.” Are either of these regulations feasible in a place like NYC?

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) issued the following statement:

This proposed rule is a critical milestone in the UAS integration process, and one that is long overdue. UAS technology has largely remained grounded while many prospective users wait for the regulatory framework to catch up. This is a good first step in an evolutionary process that brings us closer to realizing the many societal and economic benefits of UAS technology. We’re currently reviewing the details of the proposed rule, and we look forward to addressing its specific provisions once we’ve had time to fully digest the rule. As an industry we believe it’s important that the final rule enables the many civil and commercial uses for UAS technology in a safe and responsible manner and without being unnecessarily restrictive.

The draft rules, a few years behinds schedule, will be open to public comment for 60 days and then finalized sometime in 2016.

FAA Drone Rules