The FAA on Sunday released its official rules for “small unmanned aircraft systems”—drones—clearly defining what users can and can’t do going forward. A lot of the “limitations” are designed to minimizes risks to people and property on the ground, but also ensure that the public doesn’t feel these drones are invading on their privacy. For example, one rule proposes that drones can’t fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency tried to be flexible when writing the rules. “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.” Small drones are considered to be anything 55 pounds and under.
Any person flying a UAS would be considered an “operator,” which requires some conditions be met before taking advantage of the privilege. Operators need to be at least 17-years-old, and pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate; the aeronautical knowledge test would need to be passed every 24 months for the certificate to stay current.
Once a certificate is obtained, flights would be limited to daylight and visual-line-of-sight, which means you have to see your drone at all times during operation. That means you can’t be sneaky and fly your drone around corners or over walls, even if a camera is attached and you can still view where you’re flying. Below are the big takeaways from the FAA’s rules:
- A small UAS operator must always see and avoid manned aircraft. If there is a risk of collision, the UAS operator must be the first to maneuver away.
- The operator must discontinue the flight when continuing would pose a hazard to other aircraft, people or property.
- A small UAS operator must assess weather conditions, airspace restrictions and the location of people to lessen risks if he or she loses control of the UAS.
- A small UAS may not fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.
- Flights should be limited to 500 feet in altitude and no faster than 100 mph.
- Operators must stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace areas, and obey any FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs).
Additionally, the FAA said UAS operators won’t be allowed to drop objects, which pretty much rules this out.
Drone usage has risen considerably over the past several months, and has become a popular tool for filmmakers. Today’s rules finally lay out clear and concise regulations on a growing industry, which has thus far mostly remained unregulated. Drones have been banned in places like national parks, and these rules further define when and where you can/can’t operate a UAS.