FAA considering accelerated approval for low-risk commerical use of drones

This sounds like good news, but we'll have to see the details to know for sure. From Bloomberg:

U.S. aviation regulators said they are considering a streamlined approval process for flights of small unmanned drones for film making, utilities inspections, farming and other low-risk operations.

With the first regulation allowing commercial drone flights at least a year away, the Federal Aviation Administration is looking at ways to grant approvals for limited applications before then, said Jim Williams, chief of the agency’s unmanned aircraft division. The FAA is already fielding requests, he said in a speech in Orlando, Florida, today.

While such flights aren’t yet permitted, businesses have already been using drones to film sporting events, promote real estate and map land. Industries including agriculture, film making and inspections of utilities and oil and gas facilities have now approached the agency and are considering asking for a formal process for expedited approvals to fly, Williams said.

It expects to propose a rule allowing commercial drones weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms) by November, according to a schedule of rulemaking efforts.

Read the rest here

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Comment by Nikola Rabchevsky on May 18, 2014 at 11:45am

Based on my own experience dealing with government bureaucracies, don't believe a word this guys says, number 1, and number 2, don't for a second believe that it will all be ok.  Take for example, ITAR.  If you read up on ITAR you'll find something ominous known as the USML or US Munitions List.  This is the document that categorizes everything that's considered a "controlled" item.  If you think "Oh, that's just for guns, tanks, and planes," think again.  It was purposely designed to cover pretty much everything.  If they wanted to make a federal case out of you, they could.  That's by design.  That's not to say that you can't export some ITAR controlled widget.  You can.  But first you have to cough up roughly $2500 per year for the privilege of asking for permission to export.  Then you have to wade through their byzantine paperwork.  And then you wait.  Sometimes six weeks for the export license.  And the "rules" aren't really codified well.  They are subject to interpretation.  By them.  Even if you got an export license once before and though "Hey, I'll just plug in all the same information that I did last time," whoever happens to be reviewing your case that day could reject it.  You'll say "But that's the way I did it last time."  Their response will be "Well, you got lucky."  Oh, and btw, if they decide that some finished product is to be controlled, then everything that went into it is now also controlled even a little bolt you bought at Home Depot.

So what does this have to do with the FAA and DIY drones for commercial or non-commercial uses?  I envision the following: You will be able to use your drone for these purposes BUT you will have to pay an annual registration fee to the FAA which will be several thousand dollars per year.  Then every time you want to fly, you will have to submit a request to them which they will "consider" for several weeks or months depending on their backlog and supposed sequestration-induced manpower shortages.  Imagine Texas EquuSearch having to deal with this when some 5-year old kid goes missing.

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