On 21st June, the FAA issued long-awaited rules governing the use of small (less than 55lb) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for commercial purposes. The rules are intended to simplify the procedures associated with UAS operations and reduce the time needed to obtain approvals for commercial operations.
Among the main requirements:
• the UAS must remain in sight of the operator;
• minimum weather visibility is three miles from the control station;
• maximum allowable altitude is 400 feet above the ground;
• maximum speed is 100 mph (87 knots);
• operations require air traffic control permission only in certain areas (Class B, C, D and E airspace);
• operators must obtain a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating, or be under the direct supervision of a person who holds such a certificate.
The rules do not specifically deal with privacy issues; the FAA merely encourages UAS pilots to check local and state laws before gathering information through remote sensing technology or photography.
This clarification of the rules for small UAS operations is expected to give a significant boost to the industry. The White House recently cited economic estimates that commercial drones could generate more than $82bn in the next decade.
Emmanuel de Maistre, CEO of French drone analytics specialist Redbird, described the new rules as a major step forward and said they would propel the U.S. into the lead position in the sector, ahead of France and other European countries that had previously been in the vanguard of UAS developments. In de Maistre’s view, the U.S. market can be expected to rapidly become the world’s largest, both in terms of volume and the number of operators.