Wisconsin Geospatial News

FAA proposes new rules for small unmanned aircraft systems

The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed new regulations allowing routine use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The proposal covers UAS under 55 pounds conducting non-recreational operations.

The proposal would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. UAS operators would have to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test, be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration, and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate. To maintain certification, the operator would have to pass the FAA knowledge test every 24 months. However, the operator would not need any further private pilot certifications (i.e., a private pilot license or medical rating).

The proposal also outlines operating limitations designed to minimize risks to other aircraft, people and property. These limitations include avoiding manned aircraft; not flying over people; limiting flights to 500 feet in altitude and 100 mph speed; and staying out of airport flight paths and restricted areas.

Operators would be responsible for ensuring the UAS is safe before flying, but the FAA is not proposing complying with current agency airworthiness standards or aircraft certification.

The new rules would not apply to model aircraft operated only for hobby or recreational purposes.

The proposed rule also includes discussion of the possibility of an additional, more flexible framework for “micro” UAS under 4.4 pounds.

The public will be able to comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. The FAA also intends to hold public meetings, which will also be announced in a future Federal Register notice.

Current UAS rules remain in place until the FAA implements a final new rules.