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FAA Rules for Drones: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

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The May edition of “Unmanned Systems” magazine printed interviews with Earl Lawrence and Marke Gibson, two administrators at the Federal Aviation Administration who are focused on drone integration.  While the FAA currently authorizes commercial drone operations on a case-by-case basis, it is anticipated that a new rule will be finalized this year and will be comprehensive enough to fulfill the public desire for commercial drone operations.

Lawrence predicted that performance-based standards, rather than weight and speed classifications, may be used in the new rule because they provide a more effective response to safety risks posed by drones. Lawrence also believed the new drone rule will require a certification for commercial drone operators.

Gibson noted that testing has revealed drone pilots are able to see other aircraft approaching at a distance of two and one half miles in daylight hours, more than the one mile estimated for operations within visual line-of-sight.  Gibson found this, and other testing data, valuable as the FAA continues its rulemaking for drones.

At least until the new rule is passed, however, commercial operators must still follow the Section 333 exemption process.  Those that wish to operate drones for business purposes must convince the FAA to issue an exemption.  The FAA requires information like the intended use of the drone; its design and operational characteristics; and how its operation will be done safely.

Neither Lawrence nor Gibson told the magazine when the new rule would actually be rolled out by the FAA.  Last Friday at a drone seminar though, Gibson hinted that the new rule may be announced this summer.  Hopefully, the waiting, not the rule itself, is the hardest part.

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