Earlier this year I talked about hot trends in video production, and one prediction that has absolutely soared to the top of everyone’s “what’s hot” list is video shot by unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – better known as drones.
2014 marked a simpler time in drone flying. It was the good ol’ days, a return of the Wild West but, y’know, in the sky. You probably heard news stories about drones potentially interfering with airplane flight paths, and even one especially intrepid drone that came in for a crash landing at the White House. As sales of drones continued to climb, it became more obvious that some form of regulation needed to be enacted in order to control where, when and who can fly – and, more importantly, provide clear guidelines so that all operators are flying safely. Limitations on hobbyists have been very reasonable on the whole, with very few restrictions aside from some basic guidelines on where drones can be flown. However, these regulations would be especially important, and potentially lethal, for businesses and entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on the economic potential of this new technology. As it currently stands, without a professional pilot’s license or exemption from the FAA, drone operation for professional use is prohibited, though loosely enforced. The good news is that it appears the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is trying to be cooperative in accepting this new technology and creating a home for it within the realm of aviation.
The US Department of Transportation (US DOT) assembled an FAA task force to develop more specific guidelines for drone flying earlier this year. The proposed regulations are a lot less demanding than originally thought and are likely to take effect in mid-2016.
Here’s what’s included in the proposed new regulations:
For recreational drone operators, as of November 2015 the FAA is recommending that, rather than trying to keep track of every drone in the sky, it will instead require drone operators to register (name and contact information).
- Registration will be required for any operator of a drone weighing less than 55 pounds and heavier than half a pound. Registrants must be at least 13 years old, with those under 13 requiring a legal guardian to register on their behalf.
- The FAA is suggesting that the registration be free and web-based; registrants will receive a certificate after registration is complete. While they are not including any kind of requirement for training, there would be basic information on safety and piloting provided that the operator would read and sign off on during registration. It has not been specifically determined what the penalties will be if an operator neglects to register.
- The operator will be assigned a registration number that must be marked on the drone itself.
- More information about those regulations can be found here: http://www.faa.gov/uas/publications/
For businesses and commercial drone operators, the proposed regulations are a little more complicated (but far less daunting than obtaining a pilot’s license). These items were included in the task force’s February 2015 suggested regulations:
- Operators would have to be at least 17 years old and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate. It won’t expire but there’s a requirement for passing the FAA knowledge test every two years. This test has the same knowledge requirements as a private pilot’s test without the inflight requirements.
- Any accidents or property damage must be reported within 10 days and drones must be presented to FAA officials on request.
- The full report can be read here: http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=18295
The following proposed rules and regulations pertain to both hobbyists and commercial operators:
- Drone operators must be able to see the drone directly and may not fly drones over people. As in, the operator must be on-site and not controlling the drone from a remote location.
- Drones are limited to an altitude of 500 feet and a maximum speed of 100mph. Drones can only be flown during daylight hours.
- Operators must assess weather conditions, airspace restrictions and locations of people to avoid potential risks.
- Operators must avoid all manned aircraft and stay out of airport flight paths and restricted areas.
- Local laws must be adhered to, which may include some private and public areas being off-limits for flying. Many parks and cities require a permit for any commercial flying, for instance, which would need to be completed ahead of time.
- More information about flying drones: http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/
This advancement in clearly defining the rules and providing a clear path towards becoming certified as an operator, especially as it pertains to the commercial sector, will be critical in furthering innovation and diversifying the use of drones. While our obvious use for them here at Miles is with respect to their videography capabilities, there are countless ways they can and will be used in the future. The FAA has of course been receiving a strong push to get the ball rolling by a few major corporations that have been in the news lately: You may have heard that Amazon plans to potentially use drones to deliver packages with a new service called Prime Air, an innovation that I’m sure has the FAA wringing their hands.
Proving, of course, that aerial footage is only the beginning for what drones can and will provide for us in the future.