FAA Finally Acts on UAV Rules

In what is a first step for what most of us in the industry agree will be a long, drawn-out process, the FAA this week released draft regulations around the operation of UAVs in U.S. airspace.

The FAA proposal as drafted would allow drones weighing up to 55 pounds to fly within sight of their pilots during daylight hours (dawn to dusk/official local time). The UAV must stay below 500 feet in the air and fly at a speed of less than 100 mph.

People flying drones would need to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautics test and be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), but a certificate wouldn't require the flight hours or medical rating that is associated with current private pilot's licensure.

The FAA asked for 60 days of public comment on its proposal for commercial drones, but industry experts interviewed this week by various media outlets all expect the analysis of comments could take 18 months or longer before the rules are completed.  The FAA proposal represents the latest progress in integrating UAVs into U.S. airspace. Congress had previously set a September 2015 deadline for establishing rules and standards, although the Government Accountability Office (GAO) does not expect the agency to meet that deadline.

Given that we are likely looking at 2 more years before we have a definite set of rules to operate under, pilots and commercial operators need to exercise their best judgement where, when and how to fly that will serve their needs yet align with the best interests of the public at large.

As winter starts to wind down and we begin to line up our Spring 2015 shooting schedule, I'll post more information here on the blog as I interact with other operators as well as state and local government leaders about their take on the situation.

Doug BensonComment