Drones in the US: FAA proposes regulations for drone flights

Rules will be debated, but could limit business endeavours like Amazon

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The Independent US

The Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday at long last released proposed rules for the non-recreational operation of drones in the US and got widely mixed reviews.

The proposal will be debated and rewritten before it is set in stone, but as it appears now the rules would severely limit the business implications of drones, as they require the operator to be within eyesight of the aircraft.

If that stipulation makes it into the law, companies like Amazon would be restricted in what they could do with drones. For more than a year, Amazon has talked about the possibility of using drones to deliver small packages to customers, trimming delivery times. Other businesses have discussed the possibilities of remotely using drones to expand business.

“The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers,” Paul Misener, Amazon vice-president of global public policy, said in a statement to the Guardian. “We are committed to realising our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need.”

Despite the potential knock to businesses, the Small UAV Coalition, a drone lobbying group, applauded the FAA for taking the first step in creating a framework to regulate drones in the US. But found a few flaws in the proposal.

The group took issue with rules prohibiting drones from flying above anyone who is not the operator, flying at night and flying at more than 500 feet, as well as the line-of-sight rule.

Under the FAA proposal, drone operators must be at least 17 years of age and must have passed an exam, which must be retaken every two years. The drone must weigh less than 55 pounds (25 kg), must not exceed 100 mph (161 kph), must be within eyesight of the operator and cannot fly higher than 500 feet. See the full proposal here.

The Small UAV Coalition said it supports the FAA decision not to require drones to carry a certificate of “airworthiness” or to require that operators have manned aircraft training. Preliminary talks on drone regulation considered requiring operators to have pilot training.

The FAA is holding a 60-day public comment period on the proposal and will also hold meetings to give people and companies a chance to voice their concerns over the rules. The meeting dates will be announced at a later date.


Follow Payton Guion on Twitter @PaytonGuion.