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Drone Rules – The FAA is Proposing Changes for Night Flying

If you follow U.S. drone regulations, you’ve probably seen that the FAA has proposed an array of new rules. In this article, I’ll cover the latest notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM). Both of these were released last month.

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FAA Proposes New Drone Rules

From a blog post by Matt Fanelli, Director of Strategy at Skyward.

In this post, I’ll stick to summarizing the proposed new drone rules. In my next post, I’ll go in depth on a few issues we’d like to see resolved for both the NPRM and ANPRM.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

In January, Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced proposed new drone rules. They would allow drones to fly at night and over people under some conditions without waivers. This would remove a barrier for many companies that use drones, especially those in media, broadcast, and public safety.

Drone Flights at Night

Under Part 107, pilots aren’t allowed to fly drones at night unless they’ve received a waiver from the FAA. The new rule would permit flights at night as long as the drone has anti-collision lighting and the pilot has received required night flight training. This is a straightforward rule change that would codify the thousands of daylight waivers granted by the FAA.

Drone Flights Over People

The change in drone rules for flights over people is more complex. The draft NPRM proposes a three-category framework for UAS permitted to operate over people:

  • Category 1 would allow drones weighing less than .55 pounds including payload to fly over people. Pilots would fly under Part 107 with no added restrictions. The major exception: flying over moving vehicles would not be allowed for any of the three categories.
  • Category 2 would allow flights of drones that weigh more than .55 pounds including payload as long as they can’t transfer “11 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact.” In other words, a Category 2 drone couldn’t injure a person any more than a baseball tossed underhand. Also, Category 2 drones would not be allowed to have exposed rotating parts that could cut a person’s skin.
  • Category 3 drones could weigh more than .55 pounds, with maximum kinetic energy upon impact of 25 foot-pounds (about the same as a child throwing a baseball). Category 3 drones would not be allowed to fly over open-air assemblies of people. They would only be able to operate over people if either of the following criteria is met:
               (1) The drone flight is within or over a closed- or restricted-access site, and        every person within the site is told that a drone may fly over.
    The drone doesn’t hover over any person not directly involved in the drone  flight or located under a covered structure or inside a stopped vehicle that could provide cover from a falling drone.

Category 2 and 3 drones would need FAA declarations of compliance, current remote pilot operating instructions, appropriate labeling, and be subject to a product support and notification process. And again, none of the three categories of drones would be allowed to fly over people inside of moving vehicles.

For the entire blog post click here.

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