Law

DOT/FAA Announce Final Small UAS Rule

FAA UAS Rule

With unprecedented expediency – the FAA today issued the first FAA/DOT Announce Small UAS Rule, which will take effect in August 2016. As always, they’ve scattered the info about in a very confusing, illogical, and dispersed manner. So, I’ll break it down for you by webpage and I’ll also provide direct downloads of all documents released today (see below!).

Overall, this is a step in the right direction and good for all of us out in the business world. After quickly reading through portions of the rule, I can see that many adjustments are going to be needed. The FAA acknowledges this as “…just our first step” – and rightly so. As capabilities and technology change, well – so must the rules. Without further ado, I give you a bunch of links and 3 downloadable PDF files!

FAA Links Regarding the New Small UAS Rule – FAR Part 107:

Downloads:

Hope this helps everyone out & happy flying!

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Drones for Everyone?

FAA Drone Regulations

The FAA just released the most relaxed proposal to date regarding the future rules and regulations which will govern the use of civilian Drones for commercial operations. You can read the FAA’s proposed drone regulations here: FAA Drone Rules Proposal

As a commercial pilot and CFII, I’m a little concerned to say the least. I feel I need to address this directly with the FAA, so here’s my quick letter to any FAA employee who may find this post:
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Dear FAA,

Just to be clear: You are proposing that someone without any actual aeronautical rating will be permitted to fly a drone for COMMERCIAL purposes, with a weight of up to 55 POUNDS, at a TOP SPEED of 100MPH, just so long as they pass a government designed and administered written exam and agree as gentlemen/women to keep that beast below 500ft and clear of airspace. Do you think that safe operations can be assured without further aeronautical training and be monitored effectively via the honor system?

Signed,

Worried Pilot
———————————–

A few things to note if these proposed regulations become real regulations:

  • 55LBS will dissipate a large amount of energy when it comes down from 500 feet at 100mph.
  • FAA written exams (even for real pilots) aren’t very challenging. A real pilot proves his/herself in the aircraft and by displaying competence in the presence of several other people who possess experience and judgement.
  • People without a background in real aviation lack an understanding of and respect for the risks associated with flight. This lack of understanding and knowledge will put lives at risk unnecessarily in the air and on the ground.
  • Model aviation has been around for many, many years. Never in the history of model aviation has it been so easy for anyone who feels like it to put a Drone into the air. Like real aviation, flying models used to take time to learn and gain an understanding of. This helped foster competent operators with experience and skill. This is absent when we’re speaking about Drones. People with little to no experience are afforded advanced capabilities that they could never before have had without putting in a lot of time to learn. This is important to consider.
  • Every hipster with a few dollars to their name will be out there starting some sort of Drone business. Yes, buying a Drone will instantly turn people into aerial photographers and videographers, news reporters, and emergency response personnel.
  • Media companies ranging from television, radio, and blogs will have Drones. I imagine evening news will never be the same. Neither will accident sites. As if reporters weren’t irritating enough already.

Now while I may surely rub some people the wrong way, I do believe I’ve made some objectively valid points in this text which should not be ignored by the public or the FAA.

In it’s initial proposal(s) the FAA was considering the requirement of a Private Pilot’s license for individuals that intend to operate Drones commercially. I think this is a good idea (yeah, yeah – easy for me to say because I have my ratings). Some people voiced their opinion that this was financially restrictive and that many would be barred from entry into the business of flying Drones due to the expense. I do understand that position for sure – it is costly to get your Private Pilots License. However, I think that real aviation learning and experience would be invaluable in adding to the safety of operations conducted by the commercial drone pilots of our present and near future.

Aviation has always had barriers to entry. I think that’s a good thing. Imagine what would happen if they release the flying car and anyone could fly to work. I’d ride a bicycle and look out for falling cars. In the case of flying Drones for commercial purposes, if a full blown license it too expensive and too much work – maybe require applicants to solo at least.

Nothing changes one’s perspective of aviation like being alone in an airplane for the very first time without a flight instructor. His/her voice is still in your head, but the only one up there in god’s great heavens that will get your ass safely on the ground is you.

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Know Before You Fly – by the FAA

Well the FAA’s new “Know Before You Fly” video is pretty interesting. I laughed out loud watching it, but I will let you draw your own conclusions.

It appears our friendly neighborhood FAA has launched not only this video, but a website dedicated to drone pilots and drone flight operations – http://www.knowbeforeyoufly.org/

On this website the FAA offers guidance to drone operators. The guidelines are broken up into recreational, commercial, and public service sector flight operations. As to the legal force and enforceability of the guidance provided on this website – well, I don’t know. I don’t think these are laws. I don’t believe they’re currently in the FAR’s. I also question whether this website will actually reach the majority of the members of it’s intended audience. Will a tourist from Canada who buys a DJI Phantom at B&H in Manhattan be held to these rules? Who is responsible for disseminating this information? Who is to blame if the information doesn’t reach the owner of a particular make/model or slapped together home built version of a MultiRotor.

Finally I am confused as to the enforceability of of these rules? Guidelines? What exactly do we have here FAA? Who’s responsible for what? Will the NYPD now be tasked with enforcing grey federal rules, laws, text on a website? Where do we seek the answers to these esoteric questions?

I’m still laughing, but seriously – things need to be crystal clear to everyone and currently they are not. The FAA seems a bit confused in their actions and decisions – and rightly so. We are at a point where the technology has quickly sailed past the current aviation laws, rules, and regulations. It is a difficult moment and I’d say the primary and most important concern regarding all drone operations is to insure the safety of those in the air and on the ground.

If you concentrate on those 2 things, you’ll know what you have to do next my fearless FAA rule makers. What you’ve currently implemented is thin, difficult to interpret, and questionable to enforce. That is my humble opinion.

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Load up your Memory Sticks, Ready your Gimbals, Charge $$$ for Work!

Federal Judge rules commercial drones are legal

Update: March 7th, 2014 – The FAA will be filing an appeal. Read the info in their link to UAS Operations as well. They have valid points and I may have sounded the celebration alarm a bit too soon.

Commercial Use of Drones is Now LEGAL!

A federal judge has ruled today that commercial drones are legal in U.S. skies, citing that the Federal Aviation Administration has not made any legally enforceable rules against such operations. Great news for us photographers/cinematographers! We can now charge for work without fear.

To be perfectly clear, this ruling applies to the hobby RC type drones you see here on this website – NOT to full sized military drones. So calm down naysayers, no one will be flying over your house in a full sized turbine aircraft tomorrow morning. That said, they may well be flying over the house your neighbor put for sale to take photos for the real estate company handling the listing.

The ruling came out of the FAA’s case against Raphael Pirker (we know him as Trappy). The FAA attempted to fine Trappy $10,000 for the conduct of his flight operations during the filming of a commercial for the University of Virginia. The case has been going on for some time and Trappy was defended by our friend and fellow local flyer, Brendan Schulman. Mr. Schulman’s main argument was based on the fact that the FAA had no enforceable regulation or rule applying to model aircraft or in classifying model aircraft as Unmanned Aircraft (UAS) according to current FAA guidelines. The full decision text is here: FAA v. Raphael Pirker.

The FAA still has the opportunity to appeal the decision – and if it does, the case will go to the Washington D.C. U.S. Court of Appeals.

My take on what this means for those of us out there that want to make some money with our lightweight flying machines: Read more

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Journalist Sues CT Police Who Grounded His Drone (Phantom 2 Vision)

Issues with Drone JournalismPhoto Credit: Pedro Rivera

Every time there’s an idiot out there that does something to screw up this hobby and potentially my photography/video profession, I tend to take it personally. There was the Fool in Manhattan, another random nitwit flying over a crowd of people, and now our current journalist friend here. Thank you Mr. Pedro Rivera for bringing QuadCopters and Drone Photography into the public eye once again under a negative light.

The story goes like this: Mr. Pedro Rivera works as a freelance journalist (does that mean unemployed?) for WFSB Television in Connecticut. He was flying his little plastic toy Phantom 2 Vision over the site of a fatal accident scene; with a dead body still on site. The Hartford, CT Police Department were concerned for the victim’s privacy and in their attempt to control the accident site they asked him to stop flying in the area. Police then questioned Rivera and he was allowed to leave. He stated to police that he was not filming/photographing as a journalist for WFSB Television, but as a private citizen. Right, sure. He’s chasing accidents with a Phantom because he’s got nothing better to do with his time. I feel sorry for his family then. The only ID he had on his person was his WFSB TV ID card.

Turns out WFSB Television saw it fit to suspend Pedro Rivera for a week, while Connecticut Police investigated whether he did anything illegal. The police informed news agencies that they were concerned about officer safety as well as the possibility of the drone intruding on the victim’s privacy. Valid points – no family wants to see journalist post bodies of their dead relatives — anywhere or any time. What about public safety though guys? Rivera was flying in a populated area on a busy street with cars, pedestrians, accident victim(s), and emergency personnel running around. Not the best place to put a 2.5 lb flying white (potential) falling rock 200 feet into the air (the altitude he was allegedly flying at).
Read more

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