By Laurie Bedord , Successful Farming
The Federal Aviation Administration has unveiled final rules for the commercial use of small, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). This action will pave the way toward fully integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace. “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,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “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.” 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. Precision agriculture is projected to be the biggest benefactor.
The Part 107 rule, which will take effect in late August 2016, outlines safety regulations for unmanned aircraft drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are performing nonhobbyist functions.
“At the core of these rules is something particularly noteworthy: Commercial drones are now completely accessible to the mass market in the United States,” says Bob Young, CEO, PrecisionHawk. “Prior to the passage of Part 107, the only attainable way to operate commercial drones was through a time-consuming and costly exemption process. This is a significant milestone not only for the drone industry but also for the numerous industries, such as agriculture, insurance, and energy, that stand to benefit from a new form of data collection.”
Some of the provisions include:
- Pilots maintain a visual line of sight. “The new rule fits perfectly with Epson’s work to keep the skies safer with our augmented reality glasses,” says Eric Mizufuka, product manager, New Ventures for Epson America. “Today, UAS pilots are using our smart glasses to see what their aircraft sees while maintaining visual line of sight with their drone. In our labs, we are working to support 360° digital landscapes that show no-fly zones, approaching aircraft, and locally issued warnings/alerts.”
- Flying during daylight and during twilight if the drone has anti-collision lights.
- Height and speed restrictions and other operational limits, such as prohibiting flights over unprotected people on the ground who aren’t directly involved in the UAS operation. A process is being offered to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. In addition, it 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,” says 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 nonstudent 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 also conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuance of a certificate. While the operator is responsible for ensuring the UAS is safe prior to flight, the FAA is not requiring these devices to comply with current agency airworthiness standards or aircraft certification. Rather, the remote pilot will have to perform a preflight visual and operational check to ensure that safety-pertinent systems are functioning properly, which includes checking the communications link between the control station and the UAS.
Even though the new rule does not specifically address privacy issues and the FAA does not regulate how UAS gather information on people or property, the agency is working to address privacy considerations in this area. It strongly encourages all UAS pilots to check their local and state laws before gathering any data. In addition, all drone users will receive privacy guidelines from the FAA as part of the UAS registration process and through the agency’s B4UFly mobile app. Privacy will also be addressed during the pilot certification process, and the FAA will issue new guidance to local and state governments on drone privacy issues. The agency’s effort builds on the privacy best practices the National Telecommunications and Information Administration published last month as the result of a year-long outreach initiative with privacy advocates and industry. Part 107 does not apply to model aircraft. If you fly solely as a hobby or for recreation, you must adhere to Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 criteria.
Visit the links below to learn more about the new regulations.