US Congressman Rodney Davis filed an amendment to the AIRR Act today, calling for a micro drone classification. The micro drone classification was something that the commercial drone industry had been hoping to see included in the 2016 FAA Reauthorization package, with the Small UAV Coalition and industry leaders calling for its inclusion before and after the release of the AIRR Act text last week.
The amendment establishes a “micro UAS Classification” of drones weighing under 4.4 pounds including payload and meeting the following operational limitations:
A micro UAS qualifies for the exemptions described under subsection (c) if such micro UAS is operated—
- below 400 feet above ground level;
- at an airspeed of not greater than 40 knots;
- within the visual line of sight of the operator;
- during daylight; and
- at least 5 statute miles from the geographic center of a tower-controlled airport or airport denoted on a current FAA-published aeronautical chart.
A micro drone may be operated closer than 5 statute miles to the airport if the operator provides prior notice to airport authorities and is not advised of any hazards.
Most significantly to the commercial drone industry are the exemptions from other regulations that a micro drone will enjoy. Significantly, the operator of a micro UAS does not require a pilot’s license as do most commercial drone operators. The amendment states that an operator of a micro UAS operated in accordance with the above “is not required to pass any aeronautical knowledge test or meet any age or experience requirement.”
In addition, micro drones do not have to obtain certificates of airworthiness, a certificate of authorization, or a waiver from the FAA to operate.
The amendment represents a huge win for the commercial drone industry. Drone manufacturer DJI had been vocal in their support of a micro drone classification, as it eliminates much of the onerous red tape for commercial operators using a small and relatively very low risk drone and opens the doors to significant new applications of small drones.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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