Monday, July 4, 2016

In Landmark Action, FAA Releases New Rules for Commercial UAS Operation

In a landmark event, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has published in the Federal Register on June 28, 2016 (81 FR 42063) a Final Rule entitled "Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems" that amends FAA regulations to adopt specific rules for the operation of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS).
This rule finalizes the notice of proposed rulemaking entitled Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systemsin Docket No. FAA-2015-0150, 80 Fed. Reg. 9,544 (February 23, 2015).  This rule will add a new part 107 to Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) to allow for routine civil operation of small UAS (i.e., drones) in the NAS and to provide safety rules for those operations.

The key element to this new part 107 to CFR Title 14 is to allow commercial operation of Small UAS.  The FAA states in the Final Rule that “This Part 107 small UAS rule is an “enabling rule,” which effectively reduces the cost of entry into the non-recreational, non-hobby (or “commercial”) market for UAS services.”

Other key elements are as follows:
•Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
•Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the remote pilot in Command and the  person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS.
•Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons  not directly participating in the operation
•Daylight -only operations.
•Must yield right of way to other aircraft.(see-and- avoid”  requirement)
•Maximum groundspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
•Maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL) or, if higher than 400 feet AGL, remain within 400 feet of a structure.
•Transportation of property for compensation or hire allowed under certain circumstances.  Note: No transportation of property for compensation or hire is allowed between the District of Columbia and another place in the District of Columbia. See 49 U.S.C. 40102 (a) (25).
•a remote pilot in command must operate a small UAS and 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 (remote pilot in command),
•Part 107 does not apply  to model aircraft that satisfy all of  the criteria specified in section 336 of Public Law 112-95.
• Part 107 codifies the FAA’s enforcement authority in Part 101 by prohibiting model aircraft operators from endangering the safety of the NAS.

See a copy of the complete FAA Summary of Part 107 here.

The Final Rule is effective August 29, 2016. 

A more detailed analysis of the Final Rule will follow in future posts.