FAA Small UAS Rulemaking

In June of 2016, FAA finalized its small UAS (sUAS) rule which went into effect in August. The rule applies only to commercial sUAS under 55 pounds and allows UAS operators to fly without a Sec. 333 exemption. Instead, sUAS may be operated commercially by someone with a remote pilot airman certificate, which requires testing at an FAA center, or a manned pilot license along with online testing (it should be noted, however, that the testing is not as intensive as it is for manned aircraft). As of January 3, 2017, 14,669 people have passed the remote pilot knowledge exam at an AFF center while 25,569 people have completed the remote pilot application online.

In part thanks to NAAA comments on the notice of the proposed rule, the ceiling for UAS flights was lowered from 500 to 400 feet. Other operational limitations for sUAS include that sUAS operations be conducted within visual line-of-sight during daylight or civil twilight, sUAS may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation, an sUAS may not travel faster than 100mph, a UAV must be inspected by the remote pilot prior to flight, and sUAS must give way to all other aircraft. Most of these restrictions can be waived by FAA if an applicant demonstrates that such a waiver will not endanger the NAS and persons on the ground. As of the first day of the sUAS rule’s implementation, FAA had already granted 76 waivers. As of January 3, 2017 FAA has granted 176 waivers with the top waiver requests being night operations, operations over people, and BVLOS operations.

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Updated May 2017
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