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By: Tim Kenneally – tim@foleylawpractice.com

After a decade of discussion and negotiation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released its new regulations for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) [1].   Yes, the regulations are more friendly to commerce than the previous rules.  No, they will not revolutionize the skyscape by eliminating all unreasonable obstacles to commercial use.  Businesses interested in using drones need to understand and comply with the law to avoid exposure to government sanctions and liability.

Here are the highlights:

  1. Businesses will be permitted to operate small UAS (55 lbs. or less) at 400 feet or lower without a pilot’s license and without a Section 333 Exemption. Instead, a person will now be allowed to pilot a small UAS for commercial endeavors under a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or under the direct supervision of a person holding a remote pilot certificate.
  1. When operation is within 400 feet of a structure (a dam for example), the operator can exceed 400 feet.
  1. Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with ATC permission.
  1. Operators must keep the UAS within their visual-line-of-sight (VLOS).
  1. The Operator cannot fly the UAS over people not directly involved with the flight.
  1. Operators will be required to pass a test before operating in a commercial enterprise.
  1. No night operation is permitted.
  1. FAA airworthiness certification is not However, the remote pilot in command must conduct a preflight check of the small UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation.
  1. Most of the restrictions in the regulations are waivable through a certificate of waiver.

Certain businesses should see quick growth because of these new regulations.  The film industry, asset and facilities management, the inspection industry, and even aerial photography will all certainly benefit, as such operations can flourish at or below 400 feet and within VLOS.  The benefits for the mapping, surveillance, sports and agriculture industries are limited by the inability to fly beyond VLOS and over people. Those hoping to deliver packages by UAS will have to await further revisions to the law before their road gets any easier.

Even after these regulations take effect, which is expected to occur toward the end of August 2016, the FAA will still need to address larger UAS.  The FAA also needs to consider ways to further expand commercial opportunities, hopefully with further modification of these rules coming in a shorter window of time that these latest changes.

Businesses with questions about these new regulations or the process for acquiring a certificate of waiver or a remote pilot airman certificate are encourage to contact us.

How can we help?

[1] http://www.faa.gov/uas/media/Part_107_Summary.pdf

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