FAA Releases New Drone Regulations Proposal

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(Newswire.net — February 17, 2015)  — The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unveiled preliminary guidelines on Sunday, aimed at regulating the use of small commercial drones in the country. The draft regulations prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft flying out of the pilot’s sight.

The proposed rules prohibit Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones weighing more than 55 pounds from making night flights. In addition, drones are would be required to fly below 500 feet altitude. A speed limit of 100 mph is also mandated.

The FAA draft also requires the drone must be kept in the pilot’s sight at all times. Pilots must not younger than 17 years old and they must pass an aeronautics test.

Because the drone has to be kept in visible range of the pilot at all times, and “there is no acceptable technological substitute for direct human vision in small UAS operations at this time,” night flights are forbidden, FAA said.

FAA has tried to remain “flexible,” Administrator Michael Huerta said.  “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.”

Drone flight regulations proposal, if became the law, would seriously hit several companies that are developing drone related services, such as Amazon, that just proposed ‘Prime Air’ drone delivery service, which relies on remote piloting.

“The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers,” Amazon’s vice-president of global public policy, Paul Misener, told the Guardian. “Without approval of our testing in the United States, we will be forced to continue expanding our Prime Air R&D footprint abroad.”

The FAA’s draft regulations are not final and will go through a 60-day comment period. During that time Amazon could state their case and try to change the clause that conflict their business development, however, the period could be prolonged at least 18 months before the guidelines are finalized, experts said.

US President Barack Obama already signed off on a presidential memorandum, regulating federal agencies drone usage.

“[Drones] are a potentially transformative technology in diverse fields such as agriculture, law enforcement, coastal security, military training, search and rescue, first responder medical support, critical infrastructure inspection and many others,” the White House said in a statement. “The administration is committed to promoting the responsible use of this technology, strengthening privacy safeguards and ensuring full protection of civil liberties.”

According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, commercial drone use is estimated to create 70,000 jobs during the first three years of full implementation. The FAA has granted 28 waivers for commercial drone use, such as filming on movie sets, bridge inspections, and agricultural surveys.