US regulators finalise rules for commercial drone use

The US Federal Aviation Administration has introduced the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Significantly, the 624-page rulebook issued by the regulator on this subject does not cover drones designed for e-commerce delivery purposes, which are likely to be addressed under future legislation.

“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,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “But this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”

The new rule, which takes effect in late August 2016, offers safety regulations for unmanned aircraft drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations.

The rule’s provisions are designed to minimise risks to other aircraft, people and property on the ground, and require pilots to keep an unmanned aircraft within visual line of sight. The person actually flying a drone 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. 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.

The FAA is, however, offering a process to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. The regulator is set to open an online portal available to apply for these waivers in the months ahead.

Source: US Department of Transport