June 21, 2016

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the final Small UAS Rule this morning. The press release is available at:  https://www.faa.gov/news/ press_releases/news_story.cfm? newsId=20515

We have been waiting for these rules for the last couple of years and are excited that they are finally here! Overall, the regulations could have been much more restrictive so we are happy that the FAA seems to have made real efforts to balance safety and innovation.

Here's a spoiler...flights for compensation (i.e. commercial flights) are ALLOWED!

You can read over the whole thing yourself HERE. Below is a quick and dirty version of what you really need to know:

Aircraft/Operation Requirements

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).

  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS.

  • Daylight-only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.

  • Must yield right of way to other aircraft.

  • First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.

  • Maximum groundspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).

  • Maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL) or, if higher than 400 feet AGL, remain within 400 feet of a structure.

  • Transportation of property for compensation or hire allowed provided that:

  1. The aircraft, including its attached systems, payload and cargo weigh less than 55 pounds total;
  2. The flight is conducted within visual line of sight and not from a moving vehicle or aircraft; and
  3. The flight occurs wholly within the bounds of a State and does not involve transport between (1) Hawaii and another place in Hawaii through airspace outside Hawaii; (2) the District of Columbia and another place in the District of Columbia; or (3) a territory or possession of the United States and another place in the same territory or possession.

Pilot Requirements

  • A person operating a small UAS must either hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who does hold a remote pilot certificate (remote pilot in command).

  • To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, a person must:

    o Demonstrate aeronautical knowledge by either:
    Passing an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center; or
    Hold a part 61 pilot certificate other than student pilot, complete a flight review within the previous 24 months, and complete a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.

  • Be at least 16 years old.

 A final note: Most of the restrictions discussed above are waivable if the applicant demonstrates that his or her operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver.

So there you have it. Questions remain. One of the big questions is how long before the 'aeronautical knowledge test' is ready to be administered. Is it the same test as for a regular private pilot's license? Is it tailored to UAS operations? Answers to follow shortly...

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