If You Fly a Drone, You Need to Know the FAA’s New Rules

A quadcopter drone fitted with a movie camera. (Image: CC0 Public Domain)
A quadcopter drone fitted with a movie camera. (Image: CC0 Public Domain)

There are new rules to govern the use of drones in the United States. The proposed regulations will restrict parts of the growing industry, and delivery services such as the one Amazon is testing will be affected.

Under the new proposal that was released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), drones that are up to 55 lbs have to abide by the following rules:

  • Fly at a speed no faster then 100 mph
  • Fly up to 500 feet off the ground
  • Only fly during the day
  • Must be in line of sight of the operator
  • Operator must be older than 17
  • Operator has to pass a written test
  • Operator must be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration

Commercial drones temporarily banned

The commercial use of drones has been banned until the FAA can figure out what rules it needs to put into place for the industry.

“We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, in a statement. “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.”

Under the new rules, Amazon cannot operate Prime Air, the 30 minutes or less delivery service the company is developing in the United States.

“The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers,” Paul Misener, Amazon vice president for global policy, said in a statement.

This video is what Amazon wants to achieve with their Prime Air service.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for these rules to come out,” said Helen Greiner, co-founder of iRobot, and current CEO of CyPhy Works.

“Now, with the new set of regulations, engineers will finally have a framework to work with when they are designing products, and investors will know what they’re getting into when they put money into drone companies”, Greiner told Live Science.

This drone offers so many features, and gives you a good idea where drone technology is heading.

“I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth,” said Missy Cummings, a former fighter pilot who is now the director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University. “It’s a good first start, but it’s still holding back big segments of the industry.”

“One specific problem with the regulations as they stand is the line-of-sight requirement”, Cummings told Live Science.

“That rule means a person operating a drone must be able to see it, which not only eliminates the possibility of package delivery drones, but also defeats a major potential benefit of unmanned aircraft: the ability to send drones to places that are inaccessible to people.”

I guess you won’t see this Ambulance drone in the U.S.

That line-of-sight requirement would rule out the use of drones to inspect pipelines over vast oil fields in Alaska. (The FAA did grant one drone company approval last summer to conduct surveys for BP on an oil field in Alaska’s North Slope, the first in a handful of exemptions to the agency’s ban on commercial drones.) The rule would also prohibit building inspections that involve flying a drone around and behind a smokestack or using a drone for search and rescue in the woods, said Brendan Schulman, an attorney and expert in drone policy.

It will be at least a year before the new FAA’s rules become law. I guess they have their reasons for the line of sight rules, but it takes a lot of fun out of it.

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