FAA releases draft rules for unmanned aircraft systems

  • By ELWOOD BREHMER
  • Monday, February 23, 2015 11:27pm
  • News

Unmanned aircraft operators were given an outline for flight standards Feb. 15 when the Federal Aviation Administration released its proposed rules for drone flights.

The draft regulations are a major step toward integrating widespread commercial use of unmanned aircraft in the national airspace.

Also known as UAS, unmanned aircraft system flights have been approved by the agency for several years on a case-by-case basis.

The Small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking expands on the commonalities of approved flights. Currently, UAS flights are allowed only by nonprofit ventures for research and educational purposes and a very select group of commercial entities, primarily film companies.

“Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a formal statement.

Common UAS would be limited to craft less than 55 pounds with flights restricted to line-of-sight operations, constraints found in most certificates of authorization, or COAs, issued by the FAA for flights today.

ConocoPhillips obtained the first commercial COA in 2013 for research in the Chukchi Sea and BP got the first overland commercial authorization from the FAA in May 2014 for North Slope surveillance.

“We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules. We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a release.

Congress mandated the FAA to draft regulations for commercial UAS flights by the end of this year when it passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act in 2012.

UAS pilots, referred to as operators by the FAA, would have to pass an agency aeronautical knowledge test and be at least 17 years of age.

Subsequent recurring operator tests would be required every two years.

After vetting by the Transportation Security Administration, operators would receive a permanent certificate with a “small UAS rating,” much the same as the existing certifications pilots receive, according to the proposed rule.

While many UAS guidelines such as size and flight distance regulations were predictable based on standards found in most COAs, requirements for operators were a big unknown in the industry.

Alaska Air Carriers Association Executive Director Jane Dale said in an interview that the regulation plan answers a lot of questions raised by members of her organization, primarily relating to flight restrictions and UAS operator certification.

Alaska’s aviators have expressed wide concern about UAS operator knowledge of the protocols when flying in the national airspace. The draft regulations provide a good starting point, Dale said, and mostly address those concerns.

She is also pleased with the daytime and line-of-sight restrictions to UAS flights.

Dale said the AACA would be submitting comments to the FAA. The FAA is taking public comments on the draft regulation for 60 days through the Federal Register.

John Parker is president of Kenai-based Integrated Robotics Imaging Systems and a member of the Legislature’s UAS Task Force. He said he is happy with the proposal and that the FAA is requesting comments on appropriate subjects.

Parker doesn’t believe requiring a full private pilot’s license to fly a UAS is practical because of stark operation differences.

“It’s just a totally different flight dynamic,” he said.

However, Parker said he will suggest the requirement for a full ground school in addition to the proposed certification test, which as he understands it will be similar to the test taken for a private pilot’s license with added material relating specifically to flying UAS in or near terminal airspace.

Airworthiness certification would not be required under the proposed rule, a departure from most COAs. However, UAS will likely need to be registered by the FAA similar to general aviation aircraft.

More in News

A drone rises into the air while kicking up dust, departing on a test flight for the use of beyond visual line of sight drone aircraft, at Furie Operating Alaska’s central processing facility in Nikiski, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Drone test flight operates beyond visual line of sight between Nikiski and a Cook Inlet platform

The drone could perform deliveries to and from Cook Inlet platforms

A map of Lower Skilak Campground shows the areas that will be closed in July and August 2024. (Graphic provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Areas of Lower Skilak Campground to close for repair starting Monday

The East Loop will be closed — projected to be reopened at noon on Aug. 4

Kenai Courthouse is photographed on Feb. 26, 2019, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Sterling resident sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexual abuse of minors

Additionally, Crane will face 15 years of supervised probation as well as sex offender registration and treatment

Shrubs grow outside of the Kenai Courthouse on Monday, July 3, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former Soldotna police officer acquitted of 2023 assault allegations

He was found not guilty following a five-day trial in late June

A parade of cars and trucks flying flags in support of former President Donald Trump proceed down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Residents caravan across central peninsula in support of Trump

The parade came a day after an attempted assassination of the former president

Drummers perform during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenaitze tribe celebrates 10 years of ‘far-fetched dream’ at wellness center

Community members recognized the work done at the Dena’ina Wellness Center over the past decade

The Kenai Safeway is seen on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai and Soldotna Safeways may be sold under proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger

The local stores will be sold to CS Wholesale Grocers only if the merger overcomes suit from the FTC

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Draft plan published for disbursement of $11.5 million in 2021 and 2022 ESSN disasters

Public comment will be accepted for the draft spend plan until July 24

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
King salmon fishing closed on Kasilof starting Monday

The emergency order is being issued to protect returning king salmon, citing weak returns

Most Read