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FAA’s New Rules for Commercial sUAS

New FAA rules governing commercial sUAS go into effect in August, 2016. (Photo: Dominos)

On June 21, 2016,  the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published its new safety regulations for “unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms) that are conducting non-hobbyist operations.” In other words, the drones used to shoot wedding videos, a Realtors’ birds-eye view of property listings, or concert footage for a client are now governed by Federal regulations.

While the FAA’s existing small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) rules were clear enough for regulating small drones flown by hobbyists for fun, they didn’t fully address commercial applications.

These new commercial regulations are slightly different from the rules for recreational hobby drones. The criteria is if you’re making money with your drone and it weights less than 25 kg but more than 0.25 kg, then the new commercial rules apply to you. Here are a few points of difference:

  • Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) flight only. You have to be able to see your drone.
  • Commercial drones are allowed to fly during twilight, which is 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset, as long as the drone is well lit.
  • Maximum speed is 100 mph (about 160 km/h). Maximum altitude is 400′ (about 122 meters), but you can go as high as you want as long as you’re also within 400′ of a structure.
  • You can’t operate a drone from another aircraft, but you can operate it from a moving vehicle in sparsely populated areas.
  • External load operations are allowed if the object being carried by the unmanned aircraft is securely attached and does not adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft.
  • Transportation of property for compensation or hire is allowed provided that the aircraft, including its attached systems, payload, and cargo weigh less than 55 pounds [25 kg] total and the flight is conducted within visual line of sight and not from a moving vehicle or aircraft. It is not permitted in Washington, D.C. or between the islands of Hawaii.
  • The new rule does not specifically deal with privacy issues in the use of drones, and the FAA does not regulate how UAS gather data on people or property. [This should be addressed asap!]
  • The drone must be registered and comply with all registration rules regarding identifying markings.
  • The FAA is not requiring small UAS to comply with current agency airworthiness standards or aircraft certification. Instead, the remote pilot will simply have to perform a preflight visual and operational check of the small UAS to ensure that safety-pertinent systems are functioning property.
  • The pilot must either hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who does hold a remote pilot certificate.
  • To receive a pilot certificate you must be 16 years of age and be able to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center. You will also need to pass the security background check by the TSA.

The FAA  points out that “most of the restrictions discussed above are waivable if the applicant demonstrates that his or her operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver.”

The new rules go into effect in August, 2016. To read the entire Part 107 ruleset or the summary, visit www.FAA.gov/uas.

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