My interpretation of the new DOT/FAA sUAS or drone rules proposal

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. This is just my evaluation of the new proposed FAA commercial use drone rules: 2120-AJ60_NPRM_2-15-2015_joint_signature.pdf.

Their proposal looks fair enough on the surface. But If I was, I would not be happy. This will ground them due to the visual line of sight (VLOS) requirement. Also, its going to cost either $300 or $6800 bucks to get legal….critical information they left out of their summary and is unclear in the full text. So if you are a real estate agent or a farmer or just a guy looking to start a drone flying business or when ever money is exchanged, get your checkbook out because you will be subject to this certification process.

All of this below applies if you want to make money with your drone. But if you are just a hobbyist then none of this applies to you but you still have to follow Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (under 400′, hobby use only, under 55lbs and safely and 5 miles away from airports).

VLOS is the acronym of the day (VISUAL LINE OF SIGHT). Its the main inhibitor to everything you want to do.

My summary of the their basic summary:

  • Applies to commercial use only.
  • Operators must be 17 years old, pass a FAA test every 24 months and pass a TSA background investigation.
  • Drone must be under 55lbs and must not exceed 100mph and under 500 feet AGL (class G airspace).
  • Drone must fly only in daylight and within line of sight.
  • Drone will need specific markings and be *registered*.
  • Drone will not require a spotter, but the operator must be able to see the drone with unaided vision but corrective lenses are okay
  • cannot fly over people, but can fly over the operator(s).
  • cannot drop items from drone
  • preflight check is required
  • FAA can investigate a crash, this makes them the authority.
  • FPV glasses will be a no-go (though not specified that way, just my interpretation because operator will need VLOS). But maybe a transmitter mounted LCD screen would work so that you can FPV and be within visual LOS.
  • Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission. Cannot go above 18k feet. Not sure why they said 18k, since they stated you cant go above 500′ everywhere in this document.
  • Operator can control only one drone at a time.
  • Must provide the drone for inspection to the FAA is they ask.
  • Report damage to people or property within 10 days to FAA
  • No reckless flying. (take note youtubers!)
  • Does not apply to Radio Control hobbyist purposes, but they still have to follow Sec. 336 of Public Law 112-95. (and AC 91-57.???)
  • Does not apply to govt ops, they will require a FAA COA. However this part of the document is very vague. I fully expect that local law enforcement is not going to use a COA, and this will be challenged by civil rights lawyers.
  • might have special provisions for micro drones under 4.4lbs
  • might have some dorky “innovation zones” for ???

Critical stuff they left out of their summary, this stuff below is from the 195 page document

  • Spotter can use radio coms, however the operator must still be in VLOS. Moot point.
  • Total certification costs $6,803.1 or $300. Unclear.
  • If ATS air traffic control systems can be miniaturized, they will be incorporated into this. Possibly removing the VLOS requirement?
  • The certification process is meant to be used for:
    Crop monitoring/inspection; Research and development; Educational/academic uses; Power- line/pipeline inspection in hilly or mountainous terrain; Antenna inspections; Aiding certain rescue operations such as locating snow avalanche victims; Bridge inspections; Aerial photography; and Wildlife nesting area evaluations.
  • proposed part 107 would not apply to (meaning they cannot get flight certification or fall under other rules): (1) air carrier operations; (2) external load and towing operations; (3) international operations: (4) foreign owned aircraft that are ineligible to be registered in the United States; (5) public aircraft; (6) certain model aircraft; and (7) moored balloons, kites, amateur rockets, and unmanned free balloons.  Part 107 states air carrier ops in the detail it says its kills Amazons or any others product delivery goals.
  • UAS operating over water 12nm outside of the United States, these rules apply to you.
  • Must be a citizen of the United States. Aircraft is owned by a US citizen or corporation or govt entity.
  • DOD, NOAA, NASA are not subject to this law. They can fly whatever they want apparently. Just have to follow part 91 which is “see and avoid”. So they can fly FPV or auto.
  • This proposed rule would codify the FAA’s enforcement authority in part 101 by prohibiting model aircraft operators from endangering the safety of the NAS. Meaning: if you do something stupid or illegal, this gives the FAA more legal power to go after you. So don’t fly next to buildings, people, cars or aircraft in your youtube video!!!
  • You will have to travel somewhere to get your testing and certification.
  • A drone “command station” will not be allowed. Such as a control van or control trailer. Because the operator will have to be in VLOS. Bring your sunscreen.
  • Binoculars not allowed. Only eyes and eyeglasses. Due to peripheral vision reqs.
  • we are now only at page 53 of 195…..lots of bureaucracy to wade through!
  • microUAS: under 4.4lb. 400′ limit. class G airspace only. flight over any person is okay. no-autonomous ops allowed. Strange, I didnt see in the document that allowed it for sUAS but in page 55 on the table it says YES. self certify might make it cheaper to be legal. no FPV!. Aircraft must be made out of frangible materials….so paper, wood, foam, or breakable plastic! and 30 knots limit, 1500′ away distance limit, page 55 is real interesting and sad.
  • Beyond VLOS is prohibited due to the cameras are not good enough yet to “see and avoid” aircraft.
  • No flying in bad weather. Fog, rain etc. Due to VLOS.
  • 3 miles is what they consider in VLOS. Quite far actually.
  • Aircraft must be at least 500′ under clouds and 2000′ horizontal to clouds. No fly zone is in clouds.
  • Right of way, drone must avoid aircraft. Derp.
  • You will have to bring your drone with you when you get tested. They will ask you how it works. Would be wise to get my book as a study guide 😉
  • Logbook/monitoring program will be required
  • No drug or alcohol use. And you will be subject to testing if there is an incident!
  • 5 minute buffer is required. So they want 5 minutes after your mission is done so that you have enough power to divert.
  • page 97 now…lots of gems to be discovered yet.
  • ENGLISH speakers only. Interesting.
  • Operator certificate requires to demonstrate aeronautical knowledge, regulations, airspace classification, etc. Also, they will ask you if you know how drugs and alcohol affect you. pg 105
  • Tests will be administered by the 650 FAA approved knowledge testing centers
  • Cheating on the test will result in a ban of 1 year
  • If you fail, you have to wait 14 days to retake the test. Kind of a bummer considering you have to travel.
  • Medical test is not required
  • Military UAS operators wont have to take the written test. Good news for 1U0X1’s. But civilian guys operating drones in theater will not be exempt. Bad for CIA guys and gals.
  • Your certificate can be revoked if: security risk posed by the applicant, drug or alcohol offenses, refusal to
    submit to an alcohol test or furnish the results. DUI gets you revoked?
  • If you are on the TSA no-fly list, no cert for you.
  • To register your drone: send to the FAA the application, bill of sale, and $. Then you will get an N number.
  • Total testing time is about 4 hours.

That’s it. I’m sure there is more in that document, I suggest you look at it. Particularly the costs. If anyone can figure out how much its going to cost please let me know or comment below.


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