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Work in progress:UAS Rules and Guidance - USA

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Description

This article describes the current legislation, guidance materials and best practices related to the operation of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in the US.

Small UAS Rule

The Small UAS Rule (Part 107), in effect as of 29 August 2016 covers the operation and certification of small unmanned aircraft systems (weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kg). The purpose of this regulation is to:

  • set rules for the certification of UAS pilots;
  • set rules for the operation of UAS;
  • ensure that model aircraft do not endanger the safety of the National Airspace System.

Pilot Certification

A remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating is necessary to operate a small UAS under Part 107. Alternatively, the operator should be under the direct supervision of a person who holds such a certificate. A person must be at least 16 years old to qualify for a remote pilot certificate. The certificate can be obtained in one of two ways:

  • If the candidate passes an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center;
  • If the candidate has a Part 61 pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate), they must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months and must take a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.

UAS Certification

The UAS must be registered. The UAS pilot is responsible for ensuring a drone is safe before flying. However, the FAA does not require small UAS to comply with current agency airworthiness standards or obtain aircraft certification. Instead, the remote pilot has to perform a preflight visual and operational check of the small UAS to ensure that safety-pertinent systems are functioning properly. This includes checking the communications link between the control station and the UAS.

Operating Requirements

  • UAS are not to be operated in a careless or reckless manner.
  • The UAS must be kept within sight (an observer may aid with this task). The pilot (or observer) cannot be responsible for more than one UAS at a time.
  • UAS can be flown during daylight or in twilight with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
  • Minimum weather visibility is three miles (5 km) from the control station.
  • The maximum allowable altitude is 400 feet above the ground, and higher if the drone remains within 400 feet of a structure. The maximum speed is 100 mph (87 knots).
  • A small UAS cannot be flown over anyone who is not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, or not inside a covered stationary vehicle.
  • Operation from a moving vehicle is not allowed unless flying over a sparsely populated area.
  • Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without air traffic control permission. Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace need ATC approval.
  • The UAS can carry an external load if it is securely attached and does not adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft.

Respecting Privacy

Although the new rule does not specifically deal with privacy issues in the use of drones, and the FAA does not regulate how UAS gather data on people or property, the FAA strongly encourages all UAS pilots to check local and state laws before gathering information through remote sensing technology or photography. The FAA will provide all drone users with recommended privacy guidelines. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) offers guidelines and best practices for UAS pilots.

Other Requirements

The drone must be made available to the FAA for inspection or testing on request. Any operation that results in serious injury, loss of consciousness, or property damage must be reported to the FAA.

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Further Reading