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The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Feb. 23 issued the long-anticipated proposal to address the commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also referred to as drones. The proposal was introduced after the FAA previously failed to meet numerous deadlines to provide a regulatory framework for non-recreational use of small UAS. The proposed rule is expected to go into effect January 1, 2017.

Below is a summary of provisions included in the FAA’s proposed rule:

  • Small UAS must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25kg)
  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only: the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer.
  • The small UAS 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 at all times.
  • Small UAS may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
  • UAS can only be operated during daylight.
  • Maximum airspeed of UAS is 100 mph (87 knots) and maximum altitude of UAS is 500 feet above ground level.
In addition, operators would be required to:
  • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center – cost estimates are roughly $200 in fees;
  • Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration; 
  • Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires); and
  • Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months – cost estimates are roughly $150 in fees.
According to the proposed rule, the FAA is also considering including a micro UAS classification which allow pilots to operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation of micro UAS with UAS weighing up to 4.4 lbs and applicants would self-certify to obtain the necessary unmanned operators certificate. 

Public comments are due on April 24, 2015 and may be submitted here. If your company utilizes, or is considering the utilization of UAS, please contact Joey Hoellerer at [email protected].