Military Embedded Systems

FAA releases new regulations on small UAS


June 22, 2016

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

WASHINGTON. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials released the awaited new rules and regulations for small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The regulations - called Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107) - will take effect in late August and industry officials say it has the potential to create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next ten years as well as generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy.

The rule offers safety regulations for UAS weighing less than 55 pounds and that are conducting non-hobbyist operations. “We are part of a new era in aviation, and the potential for unmanned aircraft will make it safer and easier to do certain jobs, gather information, and deploy disaster relief,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We look forward to working with the aviation community to support innovation, while maintaining our standards as the safest and most complex airspace in the world.”

Under this new rule, pilots are required to keep UAS within line of sight as well as only conduct operations during daylight or during twilight hours if the UAS has anti-collision lights. Height and speed restrictions are highlighted, as well as flights are prohibited over people who are not directly participating in the operation and are unprotected.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says, “with this new rule, we are taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect public safety, but this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”

For example, the FAA is offering a process to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. To do this, the FAA will have an online portal available to apply for these waivers in the near future.

Under this new rule, the operator must be at least 16 years old and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate. A security background check will be conducted prior to issuing a remote pilot certificate.

The FAA is not requiring small UAS to comply with current airworthiness standards or aircraft certification, but the operator is responsible for the safety of operating the drone. The remote pilot will have to perform a preflight visual and operational check of the small UAS to ensure that safety-pertinent systems are functioning properly.

Privacy issues are not included within the new rule and the FAA does not regulate how UAS gather data on people or property. However, the FAA strongly encourages all UAS pilots to check local and state laws before gathering information.

To ease any concerns, the agency will provide all UAS users with recommended privacy guidelines as part of the UAS registration process and through the FAA’s B4UFly mobile app. Commercial drone pilots will also be educated on privacy during their certification process. The FAA’s effort builds on the privacy “best practices” (PDF), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration published last month.

Lastly, Part 107 does not apply to model aircraft. Model aircraft operators must continue to satisfy all the criteria in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (PDF) - now codified in Part 101 - including the stipulation that the aircraft is only operated for hobby or recreational purposes.

For more information on the Part 107 rule, click here. A summery is provided here, and for an FAA fact sheet, click here.