By Lauren Wanko
Certain drones — or unmanned aircraft systems — would be allowed to fly throughout the sky under new rules proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“It’s a very important milestone,” said Association for Unmanned Vehicle System International President and CEO Brian Wynne.
The FAA proposal is for small drones — under 55 pounds — used for commercial operations. Flights would be limited to daylight and must remain in the operator’s line of sight.
“At some point we are looking to go beyond the visual line of sight. We are working with the FAA on bringing that also on stream. That will take a little bit longer,” Wynne said.
Flights would be limited to an altitude of 500 feet, no faster than 100 miles per hour. The drone wouldn’t be able to fly over people, except for those directly involved in the flight.
“Away from airports and away from people and that actually will enable a tremendous amount of opportunity to be using this technology,” said Wynne.
“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.”
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International indicates small commercial drones will create 70,000 jobs with an economic impact of more $13.6 billion in the first three years after its integration in U.S. skies.
“Once we have the ability to fly, that this industry will create about $82 billion in economic value over the next 10 years from the day we can fly commercially without not just using exemptions,” said Wynne.
“The civilian drone industry is going to be, essentially it’s the next PC industry,” said David Yoel of American Aerospace.
American Aerospace’s aircrafts are 85 pounds and fly beyond line-of-sight. Still founder and CEO Yoel calls the proposed rule a step in right direction for civil unmanned aviation.
“We have to start somewhere, and this starts with a prudent but effective level of performance that will allow the beginnings of the industry to emerge and get started without creating undue risk to the public,” Yoel said.
An operator must be at least 17 years old and pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center, be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate, among other things.
Meanwhile, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum to safeguard privacy, civil liberties and civil rights in the domestic use of unmanned aircraft systems, says the administration.
“It points out that all federal, state, local laws that pertain to privacy also pertain to UAS. It importantly asks for greater transparency, or law enforcement so forth, so that the general public has a greater idea with what’s being done with unmanned vehicle systems,” said Wynne.
There’s a 60 day-public comment period. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says it’s difficult to tell how long it will take for a final rule.