The Federal Aviation Administration has released a proposal for rules that would govern civilian Unmanned Aircraft Systems (often referred to as "drones") 55 lbs. (25 kg) and lighter.
The FAA's detailed proposal goes into exhaustive detail about what is and is not permitted. Operators would be required to be at least 17 years of age. They would have to obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate and pass an aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months. Here are some of the highlights governing the operation and specifications of the drones themselves:
The last two points in particular will probably disappoint drone enthusiasts. Quadcopters and similar remotely-operated aircraft have been capable of carrying cameras and streaming video to a ground station for years now, but these new regulations will mean that the operator must maintain line of sight even if they have a remote video system in place. This will severely limit the effective operational range and utility of drones for your average civilian enthusiast.
- Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
- Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).
- Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
- At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
- First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
Civilian enthusiasts won't be the only people affected by these new regulations. Drones are rapidly finding utility beyond people flying them for fun. PETA announced their intent to use drones to film hunters and factory farms in April 2013 (and they followed through - they now sell drones via their website). Amazon has plans to use drones to rapidly deliver packages to their customers. These new regulations would likely put a stop to these sort of practices as the operator would be flying the drone "over any persons not directly involved in the operation". There is also no room whatsoever in the proposed rules for any sort of automated operation of drones.
The public will have the opportunity to comment on these proposed rules online when they are officially entered into the Federal Register. The FAA intends to hold several public meetings on the matter.
Do you feel the FAA's Proposed Regulations are too strict or too lenient? Let us know in the comments below!