FAA Issues Final Rule for Commercial Drone Use
Operational rules for the commercial use of drones (small unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS) were finalized and issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on June 21, 2016. The rules contemplate UAS operations for research and development, power-line/pipeline inspection, bridge inspections, aerial photography, and other non-recreational purposes, without requiring airworthiness certification, exemption, or certificates of waiver or authorization (COAs).
The rules, which go into effect at the end of August, apply to drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations. The weight limit includes everything on board or attached to the UAS. The person actually flying the UAS must be at least 16 years of age and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by a certificate holder. A remote pilot certificate may be obtained by either passing an initial knowledge test at an FAA approved testing center, or by having an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate. A Part 61 pilot certificate holder must have completed a flight review in the prior 24 months, and must take a UAS online FAA training course. All commercial UAS pilots will be educated on privacy guidelines during the pilot certification process.
The pilot of the UAS, the visual observer (if one is used), and the person manipulating the flight control of the UAS must be able to see the UAS throughout the entire flight. The UAS may be used only during daylight and during civil twilight hours if the UAS is equipped with anti-collision lights. Maximum altitude is restricted to 400 feet above ground level, unless the UAS is flown within a 400 foot radius of a structure and then can fly no higher than 400 feet above the structure’s immediate uppermost limit. There are restrictions for operations in certain airspace and in the vicinity of airports. There will be a waiver provision to allow deviation from some of the operational restrictions if the FAA Administrator finds the proposed operation can be safely conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver.
The remote pilot in command must ensure that the UAS complies with existing registration requirements, and must conduct a preflight inspection to ensure the UAS is in condition for safe operation. The pilot must report to the FAA within ten days any operation that results in serious injury, loss of consciousness, or property damage of at least $500.
For more information on new commercial drone regulations, contact Patrick Devine
This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.