The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is getting ready to move on the promised regulations for flight over people, The Hill reports. Commercial drone operators have been waiting for the details of the new rules, which FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has promised by the end of this calendar year at several public appearances. The new rule could help to move some commercial drone applications – such as drone delivery and news and media applications – forward.
The Part 107 Small UAS Rule enacted at the end of August regularized commercial operations and simplified the process of becoming licensed as a commercial drone operator. But while the new rules were a major step forward for the drone industry, restrictions on some operations including flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS,) flight over people, and flight at night persist.
The FAA sent a proposal on the new rules to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which must sign off on them before they can move forward. The rule, titled “Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People” was developed through a collaborative process. The FAA called a “Micro drone committee” of industry stakeholders to determine if the development of a micro class of drones was appropriate, as outlined in several versions of the new FAA Reauthorization Bill. While the agency determined not to move forward with a specific size-based classification and size-based regulations, they did develop a set of recommendations for flight over people. Those earlier recommendations called for manufacturer’s certification of drones and categorizes drones according to their risk level.
The abstract for the proposed rulemaking provides few details.
This rulemaking would address the performance-based standards and means-of-compliance for operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) over people not directly participating in the operation or not under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft. This rulemaking would provide relief from certain operational restrictions implemented in the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems final rule (hereinafter the sUAS Operation and Certification rule).
The rule may be delayed, as Republican lawmakers are encouraging federal agencies to freeze their rulemaking activities until after the new President takes office next year.