Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The FAA Releases Its Final Rules for Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Over People and At Night

 The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has issued  final rules for Unmanned Aircraft (“UA”), commonly known as drones.  These final rules were published in the Federal Register on January 15, 2021, at 86 FR 4390, which established March 16, 2021 as the date upon which the rules will become final. Both will have a critical impact on the integration of unmanned aircraft of all types into the National Airspace system (“NAS”).

 

The first rule, as discussed in the previous post, will require Remote Identification (“Remote ID”) of drones.  This Remote ID requirement will apply broadly to unmanned aircraft.  This will  include both UAS governed by the FAA’s rules found in Part 107 in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations and UAM operations governed by Part 135 in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulation.

The FAA indicates that the second rule will allow operators of small drones to fly over people and at night under certain conditions. The final rule allows routine operations over people and routine operations at night under certain circumstances. The rule will eliminate the need for those operations to receive individual Part 107 waivers from the FAA.

The final rule establishes four new categories of small unmanned aircraft for routine operations over people, i.e., Category 1, Category 2, Category 3, and Category 4, as follows:

• “Category 1 Eligible” are those small unmanned aircraft which weigh less than 0.55, including everything on board or otherwise attached, and contain no exposed rotating parts that would lacerate human skin.

• “Category 2 Eligible” are those small unmanned aircraft which do not cause injury to a human being that is equivalent to or greater than the severity of injury caused by a transfer of 11 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact from a rigid object, does not contain any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin upon impact with a human being, and does not contain any safety defects.

• “Category 3 Eligible” are those small unmanned aircraft which do not cause injury to a human being that is equivalent to or greater than the severity of injury caused by a transfer of 25 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact from a rigid object, does not contain any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin upon impact with a human being, and does not contain any safety defects.

• “Category 4 Eligible” are those small unmanned aircraft which must have an airworthiness certificate issued by the FAA pursuant to Part 21 of FAA regulations. Such small unmanned aircraft must be operated in accordance with the operating limitations specified in the approved Flight Manual or as otherwise specified by the Administrator. The operating limitations must not prohibit operations over human beings.

The primary condition in the operating rules for small unmanned aircraft operations at night are that the aircraft must be equipped with anti-collision lights that can be seen for 3 statute miles and have a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision.

Additional requirements for each category of small unmanned aircraft for routine operations over people are found here.

For further information contact Robert E. Kelly, Esq., at kellylawuas@gmail.com.

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