Business Community Weighs in on Proposed Drone Rules

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An attorney with Barnes & Thornburg LLP's Indianapolis office believes proposed regulations on small unmanned aircraft systems will encourage more Indiana businesses to invest in the technology. Todd Dixon says the long-anticipated rules would give businesses more certainty about their responsibilities and potential liabilities. Drone technology company PrecisionHawk, which has a location in Noblesville, says it is pleased with the majority of the FAA's proposed rules, such as the ability to fly up to an altitude of 500 feet and no requirement for a pilot's license for operators.

February 16, 2015

News Release

Indianapolis, Ind. -- Over the weekend, the FAA took a huge step towards legalizing commercial drone flights. When releasing the proposed rules for small Unmanned Aerial Systems, we were thrilled to hear FAA Administrator Michael Huerta say that the FAA and DOT are committed to building the most flexible regulatory system in the world.

While there are still some items we plan to address in our feedback to the FAA, such as VLOS [visual line of sight] and day-only operations, we are pleased with the majority of the proposed rules such as:

1. No airworthiness certificate required: This was unexpected, but a very positive addition to the proposed rules. We believe this will allow the industry to grow exponentially in a short period of time.

2. No pilot's license required-only a written knowledge test: This is important to us as flying a manned aircraft is drastically different from operating a UAS. We specifically built our framework with 'ease of use' at the forefront of our mind.

3. Ability to fly up to 500 ft with aircraft up to 55lbs: We believe this is the optimal height for capturing the most accurate data for orthomosaic stitching.

Here are a few other 'good things':

--No spectrum or radio communication requirement

--No exemption application process will be required: However, we will remain committed to safe operations in compliance with our internal safety guidelines

--May Use Visual Observer (VO), but not required: Sending out one operator instead of two, which has been a requirement to date, is more economically efficient.

--Operators may be 17 years old and up: Allowing companies the ability to use entry level employees or interns to perform flights also owing to economic advantages.

How can you get involved?

The public will have 60 days to provide comments on the proposed rules at www.regulations.gov. Feedback from commercial markets, that many of you all work in such as agriculture, energy and insurance, will be invaluable to shaping a rule we can all benefit from. Be assured that we are working with colleagues across the industry to push for regulations that can keep pace with this rapidly evolving technology.

At PrecisionHawk, we are confident that these proposed rules are appropriately aligned with the needs of our clients. This is great start for the integration of safe and reliable systems into the US Airspace.

If you have specific questions for us or would like more information on how you can get involved, please connect with our Communications Director, Lia Reich at l.reich@precisionhawk.com. We have also compiled a list of relevant documents that you can view on our blog.

Source: PrecisionHawk

February 16, 2015

News Release

Washington -- The Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration today proposed a framework of regulations that would allow routine use of certain small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in today's aviation system, while maintaining flexibility to accommodate future technological innovations.

The FAA proposal offers safety rules for small UAS (under 55 pounds) conducting non-recreational operations. The rule would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits.

The proposed rule also includes extensive discussion of the possibility of an additional, more flexible framework for "micro" UAS under 4.4 pounds. The FAA is asking the public to comment on this possible classification to determine whether it should include this option as part of a final rule. The FAA is also asking for comment about how the agency can further leverage the UAS test site program and an upcoming UAS Center of Excellence to further spur innovation at "innovation zones."

The public will be able to comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, which can be found at www.regulations.gov. Separate from this proposal, the FAA intends to hold public meetings to discuss innovation and opportunities at the test sites and Center of Excellence. These meetings will be announced in a future Federal Register notice.

"Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The proposed rule would require an operator to maintain visual line of sight of a small UAS. The rule would allow, but not require, an operator to work with a visual observer who would maintain constant visual contact with the aircraft. The operator would still need to be able to see the UAS with unaided vision (except for glasses). The FAA is asking for comments on whether the rules should permit operations beyond line of sight, and if so, what the appropriate limits should be.

"We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "We want to maintain today's outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry."

Under the proposed rule, the person actually flying a small UAS would be an "operator." An operator would have to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate. To maintain certification, the operator would have to pass the FAA knowledge tests every 24 months. A small UAS operator would not need any further private pilot certifications (i.e., a private pilot license or medical rating).

The new rule also proposes operating limitations designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground:

A small UAS operator must always see and avoid manned aircraft. If there is a risk of collision, the UAS operator must be the first to maneuver away.

The operator must discontinue the flight when continuing would pose a hazard to other aircraft, people or property.

A small UAS operator must assess weather conditions, airspace restrictions and the location of people to lessen risks if he or she loses control of the UAS.

A small UAS may not fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.

Flights should be limited to 500 feet altitude and no faster than 100 mph.

Operators must stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace areas, and obey any FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs).

The proposed rule maintains the existing prohibition against operating in a careless or reckless manner. It also would bar an operator from allowing any object to be dropped from the UAS.

Operators would be responsible for ensuring an aircraft is safe before flying, but the FAA is not proposing that small UAS comply with current agency airworthiness standards or aircraft certification. For example, an operator would have to perform a preflight inspection that includes checking the communications link between the control station and the UAS. Small UAS with FAA-certificated components also could be subject to agency airworthiness directives.

The new rules would not apply to model aircraft. However, model aircraft operators must continue to satisfy all of the criteria specified i