New FAA Regulations Support Expanded Small Drone Use

The Federal Aviation Administration released new drone regulations allowing public and commercial use of drones or "unmanned aircrafts," in a document detailing the rules released Tuesday, June 21.

As drone technology has developed and become more accessible to the public, the FAA has received pressure to regulate their use. Until the release of the "Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule", previous regulations were vague and heavily reliant on the judgement or interpretation of civilian small aircraft pilots.

This new rule is essentially expanding previously outlined regulations. As before, small aircraft pilots still cannot fly above 400ft, while the previously vague "fly safe" guideline has been expanded to clarify that "Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, and not inside a covered stationary vehicle," according to the FAA policy release. The ruling also establishes that unmanned aircrafts under 55lbs may be flown by those 16 or older who have attained a remote pilot in command certificate.

Commercial Use

Aside from the newly established need for what is essentially a drone license, one main difference to be highlighted is that drones can now be used for commercial purposes. Companies such as Amazon have already started using drones via special permission from the FAA. This new rule will expand these special permissions to all, allowing drones to be used regularly to conduct business. The FAA hopes these new regulations will safely expand commercial use by benefiting the economy and establish new routes of aid administration such as disaster relief efforts.  While this may be true, it still remains unclear what the normalization of drone use could have in store for the future.

While the expansion of small aircraft use can mean the growth of safety measures by way of rapid-response medical support or disaster relief, familiar anxieties around the use of drones can arise.

As private and public organizations such as corporations or governmental departments are more regularly able to access this technology, questions of surveillance, the normalization of drone use or even the ability corporations have to misuse this technology are prominent in light of these new regulations. As outlined in the FAA's statement, the new regulation "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," but the FAA is "acting to address privacy considerations in this area." Under this vague language, it is unclear how data collection will be handled, if handled at all across the US.

The new rule is said to take effect in August. An outline of the FAA's new drone policy proposal can be found here.



Featured image "DJI Inspire 1 Drone" by DFSB DE via Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.