FAA Releases New Proposed Rulemaking for Drones

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Over People, and has imposed a new regulation that requires all small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to display FAA registration numbers on the exterior of the aircraft.

Currently, FAA regulations do not allow small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to operate at night or over people.  An operator may apply for a waiver of this rule; however, the process can cause significant delays for commercial business operations. 

Night Operations

Proposed changes to this rule would allow operators to fly at night without applying for a waiver if they complete a training course on night operations and follow the anti-collision lighting conditions as outlined in the NPRM.  The traditional waiver process is still available to operators who do not meet these requirements.

Operations Over People

The FAA rules define operations over people as “one in which a small unmanned aircraft passes over any part of any person who is not directly participating in the operation and who is not located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle.”  The new rule would allow routine operations over people without an operator having to obtain a waiver.  The operator would need to meet certain conditions depending on the level of risk, which the FAA has outlined in three categories:

Category 1:  Low risk.  Small UAS weighing less than 0.55 pounds are approved to fly over people with no additional restrictions imposed by the FAA.

Category 2:  Medium risk.  Aircraft weighing more than 0.55 pounds are subject to performance-based criteria that would allow a small UAS to fly over people if the aircraft maker can prove that the severity of any injury resulting from a UAS crashing into a person would be below a certain severity threshold.

Category 3:  High risk.  Provides for a higher injury threshold but includes operational limitations to reduce an individual’s exposure to injury risk.

UAS Registration Display

The FAA issued a new rule requiring UAS to display their registration number on the exterior of the aircraft.  This rule went into effect on February 25, 2019. 

Prior to the implementation of the new rule, the FAA had allowed registration markings to be in an enclosed compartment so long as it was accessible without the use of tools.  However, law enforcement and security agencies sought the change, saying the old rule posed a risk to first responders.  Their concern was that requiring first responders to handle or disassemble a drone involved in a security incident in order to find a registration number posed an unnecessary safety risk because of the potential for enclosed compartments to contain explosive devices.

Aviation law can be complex. Skilled representation is necessary. Williams Commercial Law Group, L.L.P., is a law firm with decades of experience in aviation law, business divorce, and high stakes litigation. Contact us at (602) 256-9400 and schedule a time to meet with us today.


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