FAA Proposes New Rules for Commercial Drones

FAA Proposes New Rules for Commercial Drones – NationalJournal.com.

February 15, 2015  After months of delay, the Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday proposed a set of rules and regulations for flying commercial drones.

The rules, which would allow commercial users to fly drones that weigh less than 55 pounds, require operators to fly the devices within their sight during daylight hours only. The drones would have to stay within 500 feet of the ground and fly at speeds below 100 miles per hour, according to the regulations.

Officials had cited “significant technological barriers” to explain the delay in releasing the rules.

According to the proposed regulations, drone operators would have to be over 17 years old and would need to complete a test to obtain a certificate from the FAA before they could fly commercial drones. Operators would need to retake the test every two years to remain certified.

The proposal also says that drones cannot “drop” objects, perhaps taking aim at the idea of drone delivery services like one Amazon has put forward. The FAA’s proposal also makes no mention of autonomous flight, without which drone delivery schemes likely cannot exist. But the proposal did mention the possibility of more flexible rules for a class of “micro” drones that weigh less than 4.4 pounds, which could allow for delivery by drone.

“We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a press release. “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.”

The public can comment on the proposed rules for 60 days, and the FAA plans to hold meetings to discuss the proposal before it’s implemented.

“This proposed rule is a critical milestone in the UAS integration process, and one that is long overdue,” said Brian Wynne, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a prominent drone lobby. “UAS technology has largely remained grounded while many prospective users wait for the regulatory framework to catch up.”

UAS, which stands for “unmanned aircraft systems,” is another term for drones.

Existing restrictions on commercial drone flights remain in place until the rules are finalized. That means commercial drone flights are still banned, except for a handful of organizations that applied for and received special exemptions from the FAA.

Only 28 companies have received permission to fly drones for uses as varied as industrial inspections, filming over closed movie sets, and even newsgathering.

Also on Sunday, President Obama sent a presidential memo to the heads of all federal agencies, ordering them to draw up and publish policies for drone use within a year. The memo outlined privacy and accountability protections that agencies would have to take into account as they create their policies.

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