New Federal Aerial Drone Rules Become Effective

August 17, 2016

Drone CameraThis month, new rules adopted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) governing the operation of unmanned aerial drones become effective.  Those rules help to clarify the operating requirements for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and they have generally been applauded as an important first step toward expansion of drone operations in the U.S.

The rules apply only to drones that operate at speeds slower than 160 kilometers per hour and weigh less than 25 kilograms.   UAVs operating under the rules must fly at altitudes lower than 122 meters, and can not fly over locations where there are people.  The rules require that all of these drones must fly only during daylight hours.  The rules also require that the drones can only be operated within the line of sight” of the pilot.  This means that the drones can only be operated under circumstances where the pilot can actually see the aircraft.

Matsuura Blakeley BannerThe rules require that pilots of drones must obtain a permit from the government.  Those permits will be issued only to individuals who are 16 years of age or older and who have successfully passed an online test managed by the FAA.  Unpermitted individuals can operate UAVs only under the direct supervision of an individual who has an FAA permit.

It is important to note that UAVs can operate, under some circumstances, outside of the scope of the new rules, but such operations must be approved through special specific advance action by the FAA.  The new rules are intended to provide the basic framework for general UAV operations in the United States.

It is anticipated that the implementation of these new rules will facilitate more rapid expansion of aerial drone operations in the U.S.  Now that the operational requirements associated with UAVs are in place and clearly expressed, it will be easier for drone users to expand their UAV operations and to integrate the drones into their personal and commercial activities.  For these reasons, aerial drone activists have, in general, welcomed the implementation of the new rules as an extremely positive step in support of UAV development in the United States.