Last updated: 10:14 PM ET, Sun August 14 2016

FAA Finalizes Rules For Drones

Impacting Travel | Rich Thomaselli | June 21, 2016

FAA Finalizes Rules For Drones

PHOTO: The FAA will slowly integrate drones into everyday life. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

The Federal Aviation Administration today opened the door to what it called fully integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s airspace, finalizing the rules for routine commercial use of drones.

But it kept the door shut, for now, on the hopes of Amazon, WalMart and others who had hoped to use drones for package deliveries.

“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,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “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.”

The Department of Transportation said that 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.

The 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 (no more than 400 feet) and speed (no more than 100 MPH) restrictions and other operational limits, such as prohibiting flights over unprotected people on the ground who aren’t directly participating in the UAS operation.

That would seem to eliminate retailers like Amazon who have experimented with delivering packages by drones but would not be able to comply with such rules as keeping the drone within visual line of sight or keeping it away from unprotected persons on the ground.

However, 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.


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