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Proposed Federal Aviation Regulations (Feb. 2015)

In February of 2015, the Federal Aviation administration released a nearly 200 page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which included a new proposed Part 107 of FAA Regulations,  to deal with non-recreational, non-hobby flying of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS).   Here is a summary of the major provisions of the proposed rules, which would apply to essentially all operations of UAVs  weighing under 55 pounds and flown for commercial purposes.   Nearly 4,500 comments were submitted by April 24, 2015, the closing date for comments.  The FAA will review, and allow further input, before enacting any final rules.  No definitive regulatory completion date has been set.

Summary of Major Provisions of Proposed Part 107
Operational Limitations • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
• Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer.
• At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
• Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
• Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).
• Must yield right-of-way to other aircraft, manned or unmanned.
• May use visual observer (VO) but not required.
• First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
• Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
• Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.
• Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
• No operations are allowed in Class A (18,000 feet & above) airspace.
• Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission.
• Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission
• No person may act as an operator or VO for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one time.
• No operations from a moving vehicle or aircraft, except from a watercraft on the water.
• No careless or reckless operations.
• Requires preflight inspection by the operator.
• A person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft if he or she knows or has reason to know of any physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.
• Proposes a microUAS category that would allow operations in Class G airspace, over people not involved in the operation, and would require airman to self-certify that they are familiar with the aeronautical knowledge testing areas.
Operator Certification and Responsibilities • Pilots of a small UAS would be considered “operators”.
• Operators would be required to:
○ Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
○ Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
○ Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires).
○ Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
○ Be at least 17 years old.
○ Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule.
○ Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.
○ Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.
Aircraft Requirements • FAA airworthiness certification not required. However, operator must maintain a small UAS in condition for safe operation and prior to flight must inspect the UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation. Aircraft Registration required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft).
• Aircraft markings required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft). If aircraft is too small to display markings in standard size, then the aircraft simply needs to display markings in the largest practicable manner.
Model Aircraft • Proposed rule would not apply to model aircraft that satisfy all of the criteria specified in section 336 of Public Law 112-95.
• The proposed rule would codify the FAA’s enforcement authority in part 101 by prohibiting model aircraft operators from endangering the safety of the NAS.