The FAA, along with the Department of Transportation, is proposing new rules for small drones “conducting non-recreational operations.”
Under the proposal, drone operators wouldn’t need a pilot’s license, but they would need to register with the FAA every two years. It also says operators can only fly small drones in daylight and within their line-of-sight. A small drone is defined by the FAA as one under 55 lbs.
The plans could also muck up plans by some companies who are planning to use drones for delivering goods.
Under the proposed rule, the person actually flying a small UAS would be an “operator.” An operator would have to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate. To maintain certification, the operator would have to pass the FAA knowledge tests every 24 months. A small UAS operator would not need any further private pilot certifications (i.e., a private pilot license or medical rating).
The new rule also proposes operating limitations designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground:
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 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).
The proposed rule maintains the existing prohibition against operating in a careless or reckless manner. It also would bar an operator from allowing any object to be dropped from the UAS.
Nieman Lab cautions news directors who want to use drones for newsgathering to “slow your roll.” It may take some time before the proposal becomes the rules. Until then, nothing has changed as far as how the FAA regulates drones.