Today, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems – aka UAS or drones. The FAA is far behind in fully integrating drones into the nation’s airspace, the most complex airspace in the world. The new rule, which takes effect in late August, offers safety regulations for unmanned aircraft drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations.
After heavy criticism by Congress about ignoring the threat to public safety posed by drones. Congress noted the lack of oversight by the agency responsible for airspace, as well as missed deadlines to do its regulatory job. As a result a hastily convened task force delivered recommendations to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on 21 November 2015.
“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,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The rule’s provisions, allegedly, are said “to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground.” The regulations require pilots to keep an unmanned aircraft within visual line of sight. Operations are allowed during daylight and during twilight if the drone has anti-collision lights. The new regulations also address height and speed restrictions and other operational limits, such as “prohibiting flights over unprotected people on the ground who aren’t directly participating in the UAS operation.”