By Brooks Lindsay
This blog post follows up on an article I wrote for the Washington Journal of Law, Technology and Arts for the Spring 2015 issue. I submitted the article as a comment to the FAA on behalf of the UW College of Engineering. The article, titled “Drone Drain,” suggested the FAA be forward-looking with its draft unmanned aerial vehicle (UAS) rules. This blog post attempts to assess the FAA’s work since then.
Since the end of the comment period, the FAA created registration rules for drones weighing between .55 lbs and 55 lbs. This is an important step in the maturation of drone law because, like with cars, the identification of a drone after an accident is critical for victims to bring tort claims or the government to press charges for a misdemeanor or felony. If people don’t know who crashed a drone, then they can’t hold that registered person legally accountable. Without accountability, UAS pilots might feel emboldened to take risks without fear of legal consequences. Registration rules cut through this cycle and facilitate the maturation of a legal ecosystem for drones. Continue reading
By Max Burke
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Sunday released proposed rules for small commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—also known as drones or unmanned aircraft vehicles. The rules would apply to non-recreational UAS under 55 pounds and would, among other things, limit flights to daylight hours and altitudes of less than 500 feet. A drone operator, with the help of visual observers, would need to maintain visual line of sight of the drone. And an operator would also “have to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate.” (See a summary of the proposed requirements here and the full proposal here.)
Currently, the FAA effectively bans commercial use of drones. Pursuant to section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), the FAA authorizes such use only on a case-by-case basis; a limited number of companies have been given authorization since September 2014. The proposed rules—which were made pursuant to the FMRA—are supposed to be the next phase in expanding commercial drone use. The FAA lists a number of UAS activities that would be allowed under the proposed framework, including crop monitoring, research and development, power-line inspections, aerial photography, and aiding certain rescue operations. Anyone can submit comments on the proposed rules to the FAA for up to 60 days after the rules are published in the Federal Register. Unfortunately, promulgation of permanent rules is not expected until 2017, nearly two years after the deadline mandated by Congress in the FMRA. Continue reading