Diana Marina Cooper, a tech lawyer, has posted this analysis of the FAA draft rulemaking document that was posted earlier here.

Possible Leaked FAA Document Provides Hints Regarding Proposed Rulemaking for sUAS

A new document purporting to be prepared by the FAA Office of Aviation Policy and Plans provides hints regarding the anticipated proposed small UAS (sUAS) regulations. The possible leaked document is dated February 2015 and is titled “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regulatory Evaluation, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” The document’s authenticity has not been established, however assuming that the document is authentic, here are some of the more noteworthy insights into the upcoming proposed regulations…

Line of Sight in Daylight Below 500 ft

The FAA proposes that operators must fly within visual line of sight. The document states that at this time “there is no acceptable technological substitute for direct human vision.” The document also proposes that operators are only permitted to fly between sunrise and sunset. The rationale provided for this requirement is that sUAS will be flying at low altitudes and flying at night would make it difficult to see people on the ground. The proposed rule requires operators of sUAS to operate below 500 ft. The logic behind this ceiling height restriction is that manned aircraft generally operate above 500 ft.

sUAS Registration Requirements, No Airworthiness

Each sUAS would have to be registered with the FAA. Registration would cost around $5 and would have to be renewed every three years. According to the document, the FAA Aircraft Registration database would enable the FAA and the public to identify registered owners and operators. The document states that “this information is necessary for FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors to perform their routine checks or to investigate an incident or accident.” Although sUAS would have to be registered, airworthiness compliance would not be imposed. Because sUAS pose a lower risk to people and property, the document provides that airworthiness compliance “would not result in significant safety benefits.”

No Pilot’s License but Requires Knowledge Test and Operator Certificate

A pilot’s license would not be required to operate sUAS. The document admits that the “training, testing, proficiency and experience requirements for obtaining a commercial pilot’s license have limited relevance to the nature of small UAS operations.” Instead, operators would have to pass a test demonstrating aeronautical knowledge and would be required to obtain a small UAS operating certificate from the FAA. The test would take roughly 3 hours to complete.

TSA Security Threat Determination

According to the document, the “TSA would [need] to determine if the operators pose a security threat. The TSA considers someone to be a security threat when he or she is known to pose or is suspected of posing a threat to national security, to transportation security, or of terrorism.” The estimated cost of a security threat determination is $130 per applicant. Although the proposed rule does not impose this fee on the operator, the document states that “at some point in the future these costs may be passed directly to the operator.”

Physical Capacity Certification

The document provides that sUAS applicants would have to certify that they have “no physical or mental condition that could interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.”

Alternative Approaches

Finally, the document reveals alternative approaches that the FAA considered in the rulemaking process. For instance, the FAA considered parsing sUAS into subcategories based on weight, operational characteristics and operating environment. The FAA dispensed with this approach as it was deemed too burdensome. However, the FAA is apparently considering a micro sUAS rule for UAS under 2kg that meet certain operational parameters including operating at less than 30 knots below 400 ft within line of sight without use of FPV. Under the micro sUAS classification, the operator would not have to complete the knowledge test however a micro sUAS operating certificate would be required.

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Moderator
Comment by Gary Mortimer on February 14, 2015 at 11:14am

It was not leaked Chris it was posted to a few folk.

Comment by Jonathan Hair on February 14, 2015 at 12:27pm

I don't see this as a win, if true, despite being less cumbersome than many had expected.

It creates a fee to grant us permission for something we have been doing already, while adding nothing of value.

I take offense to the TSA background check. It implies that model aircraft are inherently a national security threat. Even if they were, it only prevents bad folks from getting a commercial license. They can still purchase and operate sUAS! How does that make anything safer?!

Comment by David on February 14, 2015 at 3:38pm

Looks good to me, now just publish the darn thing already!

Comment by Gary McCray on February 14, 2015 at 4:29pm

The FAA behaving reasonably, are you sure it isn't April 1st.

Would it have killed them to let us know this was the direction they were headed in.

It might have saved a lot of ill feelings - certainly mine.

Of course we haven't heard them say it officially yet so don't have to eat my words quite yet.

Best regards,

Gary


100KM
Comment by DavidJames on February 14, 2015 at 4:39pm

Situational awareness is actually better flying at night.   sUAS flying should be allowed day or night.

I have found that that I have better line of sight visibility to my drone at night.    Red leds on the left wing, green leds on the right wing and white leds on the tail.   Very easy to see.   It is easy to see other planes as well.  Easier than it is during the day.

I have also found that navigation lights of other planes are also visible my nose camera.

Comment by Gary McCray on February 14, 2015 at 5:02pm

Hi David,

I think the night flying thing will probably end up later getting handled for those specific kinds of cases that really benefit from it, clearly search and rescue, fire spotting, disaster relief and police surveillance really need that and media news gathering would benefit too.

But it does definitely open up an entire can of worms that probably fits in a similar class to those wanting / needing to use them over 500 feet and / or out of line of sight or over 55 pounds.

My guess is those drones will eventually end up with their whole own set of regulations and they will be even tougher than what we have seen so far from the FAA.

However, in the meantime, the judgments and calls they seem to have made will go a long way to enabling most of what is really needed rather than stifling it.

Some of the things like the TSA clearance are a bit weird and probably wouldn't affect at all the terrorists it is aimed at who would simply ignore it anyway.

But if the FAA doesn't require something like that they would certainly suffer the consequences of anything that actually does happen.

Looks like the FAA covering it's ass to me and I can't really say I blame them.

I am also very hopeful on the sub 2KG relaxed rules, the media, videographers, real estate agents and a whole lot of others could be able to pursue their desires if the FAA makes that a reasonable thing.

For a long time I have been harping on the intrinsically increased safety of lighter, smaller UAS and 2 KG still gives you plenty of room for a lot of capability.

I would have been happy with a sub-1 KG class, because that is something we are rapidly approaching the capability of reasonably meeting and still with plenty of photo and video capability.

I just hope this is all true, it is certainly a ray of hope at the very least.

Best,

Gary

Comment by Dan Murray on February 14, 2015 at 5:10pm

This is a pretty big deal, and I agree with you Gary: if they were intending on being so reasonable all along, why not spare themselves all the ill will and hatred? They appear to be adopting far looser regulations than even I expected (was betting on micro-uas < 5lbs and PPL written). Fingers will remain crossed until we hear something official.

Comment by Jack Crossfire on February 14, 2015 at 10:04pm

No idea what this blog post said, but it must be wonderful to be married to a lawyer without health problems.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on February 15, 2015 at 7:59am

Wow!  I'm very impressed.  So far these rules are looking great.  Bravo FAA!

Hopefully Canada follows the FAA's lead.  (Never thought I'd say that!)

Comment by Alec Kriebel on February 15, 2015 at 3:17pm

Beyond line of sight operation, in my opinion, is essential for long term business development for UAS. 

It certainly is an issue, however, it is one technology can overcome. We need minimum standards in place that would allow operators to fly beyond line of sight. 

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