June 23rd, 2016

FAA Releases Rules for Commercial and Media Drone Operation

Yesterday the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a new set of rules for the use of drones in the United States for “non-hobby and non-recreational purposes,” i.e. commercial production and journalism. The rules introduce a certification process for drone pilots, address drone operation when people are present, and spell out when drone operators must clear their flights with local air traffic control, among many other provisions.

The rules will go into effect in early August.

The FAA released a summary of Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, for those who don’t want to read the full, 624-page document. Some of the highlights include:

  • 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:
    • 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 vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
    • Be at least 16 years old.
  • 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. Alternatively, the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the visual observer.
  • Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, and not inside a covered stationary vehicle.
  • Daylight-only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
  • Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission.
  • Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission.

Matt Waite, the founder of the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska has a good breakdown of the different airspace rules in his explainer for NiemanLab, here.

Related: Own a Drone? You’ll Have to Register It with the FAA
FAA’s Proposed Drone Rules Won’t Bar Photography

December 14th, 2015

Own a Drone? You’ll Have to Register It with the FAA

Yuneec_Drone

The Federal Aviation Administration announced today that anyone who owns a drone weighing between .55 and 55 pounds will have to register their aircraft with the government—provided they’re not using it for business purposes.

According to the FAA, registrants will need to provide their name, home address and e-mail address. When they’ve registered, they’ll receive a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership that will include a unique identification number for the UAV owner—an ID which must be marked on the aircraft.

The registration is valid for three years.

The FAA will charge drone owners $5 to register but will waive the fee during the first 30 days of registration (from Dec. 21, 2015 to Jan 20, 2016) to encourage people to sign up. Online drone registration is available here.

If you own a UAV for business purposes, sit tight. The FAA says the online registration system is only for hobbyists. A registration system targeting the business use of drones is expected to go live in the Spring of 2016.

“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement announcing the new rules. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely.”

Read More:

New Service Is the “Uber for Drones”

Will New DJI Tech Make Drones Unsuitable for Journalism?

Here’s the First Footage from GoPro’s Drone

The Best Drone Movies of the Year

 

March 10th, 2014

Commercial Drones Are Legal, Federal Court Says

A federal administrative court judge has determined that drones–aka unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs–can be used for commercial purposes because the Federal Aviation Administration has no regulations on the books that prohibit such uses.

Vice.com reported that the judge made the ruling last week in a case involving a photographer who had appealed a $10,000 fine for using a drone to shoot a video commercial, allegedly in violation of FAA rules.

The FAA immediately appealed, explaining in a statement that it “is concerned that this decision could impact the safe operation of the national airspace system and the safety of people and property on the ground.”

The FAA had fined photographer Raphael Pirker for unauthorized commercial use of a drone in 2011, after Pirker had used a remotely-controlled aircraft to produce a video commercial for the University of Virginia. Pirker had piloted the aircraft in the vicinity of the university, located in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Pirker, owner of UAV video production company Team Black Sheep, won his appeal of the fine on the grounds that a drone is in the same class of aircraft as model airplanes, which the FAA has never regulated. (The FAA has asked model airplane operators to fly the planes under 400 feet, and to stay away from airports, but those rules are strictly voluntary.)

The administrative court ruling means that photographers can use drones for commercial purposes, at least for now. But with the FAA opposed to unregulated use of drone aircraft in the US, it’s a safe bet that the agency will try to impose new administrative rules–or seek legislation–to restrict the use of drones in the near future.

Related:
Hartford Police Sued for Stopping Camera Drone, Chasing Photog Away