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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Thoughts on the new proposed FAA rules for UAS

February 17th, 2015 by Susan Smith

New proposed rules covering small “unmanned aerial systems” (UAS) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this Sunday, could be game changing for those who are looking to use unmanned drones for business purposes.

A Reaper UAV drone

A Reaper UAV drone

In the past, the regulations regarding the flight of UAS was uncertain and worrisome to those who had found the use of drones to be particularly useful in land surveying, farming, real estate and government.

The new proposed rules would permit drone assisted operations such as crop monitoring, aerial photography, bridge inspections and some search-and-rescue missions. This set of FAA rules, arriving on the heels of a consumer toy drone crashing on the White House grounds, was already in the works before that incident. While there has been controversy regarding privacy rights, safety and other issues surrounding drones, drone manufacturers and many avid customers have been at the forefront of making this legislation occur.


Tim Adelman, a veteran aviation attorney and head of a LeClair Ryan practice group focused on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and a shareholder in the national law firm’s Annapolis, Md., office, said the rules are welcome news for the UAS industry and its customers, both of which have struggled amid considerable ambiguity on the use of drones in U.S. airspace. “Regulatory clarity could be a boon to makers and sellers of small UAS, in particular.”

He also cautions that the ensuing regulations will probably result in more FAA enforcement actions, so that UAS operators will need to be careful not to disobey the laws.

Drone operators have been chomping at the bit to have this legislation passed so that they can safely and legally operate drones for their businesses. Issues such as privacy, possible terrorism and safety have come to the forefront in the drive toward some kind of regulatory standards.

“The FAA is seeking to answer key questions here such as the types of UAS to be regulated, appropriate operating conditions, required operator certifications, airspace limitations, acceptable uses and more,” Adelman said. “This is an important first step toward creating a safe, integrated regulatory framework for UAS in the United States.”

The proposal will allow real estate agents and others who have been using hobbyist “drones” to take photos for their businesses will now be officially regulated. Those using the drones and those receiving information garnered from drones should do well to know what the regulations are and how they are covered.

The following are some key elements of the proposed rules (from press materials):

  • They cover small UAS weighing less than 55 pounds and traveling less than a maximum speed of 100 mph/87 knots.
  • The operator does not need a traditional FAA airman certificate but does need to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge-testing center.
  • Operators cannot fly if they knowingly have any physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.
  • The operations are limited to day hours with at least three miles visibility and with clouds at or above 500 feet above the intended operating altitude.
  • Flights are limited to line-of-sight operations at or below 500 feet above ground level.
  • Operations will be permitted in certain controlled airspace (Classes B, C, D and E) with prior air traffic control clearance.
  • The small UAS does not need an FAA airworthiness certificate but must be registered.
  • Specific commercial operations would be permitted, including crop monitoring; R&D; educational uses; power-line/pipeline inspection in hilly or mountainous terrain; antenna inspections; aiding certain rescue operations; bridge inspections; aerial photography; and wildlife nesting area evaluations.

GISCafe Voice additional related coverage:

Inaugural ASPRS UAS Conference 2014 held in Reno

Special Coverage: UAS – Disruption in the Skies

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Categories: Big Data, cloud, cloud network analytics, conversion, crowd source, data, drones, Esri, geomatics, geospatial, GIS, Google, GPS, laser radar, LBS, lidar, location based sensor fusion, location based services, location intelligence, mobile, sensors, Trimble, UAS, UAV, UAVs

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