FAA Switches Off Autopilot, Issues Long-Awaited Proposed Rulemaking for Drone Usage

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After several false starts and delays, the FAA finally released its proposed drone regulations this past weekend. Likely prompted into action by a series of recent high profile events, including too close for comfort sightings by commercial airline pilots, and a drone crash on the White House lawn, FAA’s proposed rules intend to limit drone usage in several important ways. First, drones will be limited to 55 pounds or less, must be flown only in daylight and must remain within the operator's line of sight, at altitudes not exceeding 500 feet, and at speeds of less than 100 miles per hour. Second, operators need not be formally licensed, but must be at least 17 years of age and pass a bi-annual certification requirement evidencing basic aeronautical skills.

While the proposed rule provides commercial drone operators with greater flexibility than originally anticipated, significant constraints on uses by certain industries remain. For example, uses such as pipeline monitoring, forestry, mining, large scale agriculture, and remote surveying could be severely curtailed by the line of sight limitation. However, small and mid-size farming operations, along with local development and real estate interests, may be unaffected.

The FAA has established a 60-day comment period on the proposed regulations. Formal rulemaking, however, appears to still be some time away and will likely not be completed until 2016.

Download a copy of the proposed regulations

Read our related updates:

January 29, 2015 -- California Legislature Takes Another Pass at Regulating Drone Operators
December 10, 2014 -- With Updated FAA Drone Regulations Imminent, California Legislature Introduces Three New Drone Bills
October 16, 2014 -- FAA Clears the Drone Runway for Hollywood; California Governor Grounds AB-1327

Key Contributors

Hunter Ferguson
Kevin R. Prohaska
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