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FAA Proposes to Ease Drone Flight Rules
Matthew Greenwood posted on February 14, 2019 |

The Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) is proposing new rules that could pave the way for drones to become a more common sight in American airspace.

One of the recurring complaints from drone operators is that federal rules haven’t kept up with technology. In a speech to the Transport Research Board, Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, who heads the FAA, seemed to agree.

Chao announced three Department of Transportation initiatives to help clear a path for more widespread drone use.

First, the FAA will release for comment a new rule that would allow drones to fly overnight and over people without needing waivers—under certain conditions. For nighttime flying, the operator needs to have received appropriate training and have passed a test, and the drone needs to be equipped with anti-collision lighting. For flying over people, the conditions would depend on the risk to people on the ground.

The FAA will post the proposed new rule in the Federal Register in the near future and will solicit feedback for 60 days after publication.

Second, the FAA will also release for feedback a framework to reduce the risks of drones to commercial aircraft, people on the ground or national security. This will pave the way for drones to be better integrated into the commercial and passenger airspace.

Third, the Administration announced the selection of three commercial service providers who will develop technology to manage drone integration into the airspace: flight planning, communications, separation and weather services. The three providers were chosen from a list of 10 pilot projects announced last year to test drone operation in a variety of conditions currently prohibited by law. The providers are the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, the Nevada UAS Test Site and the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.

Bloomberg Technology discussion on proposed new drone regulations.

Looser rules on nighttime flying and flying over people will likely make the sight of drones more common. And it will undoubtedly bring drone-delivered packages closer to reality. This will make it possible for not only commercial firms like Walmart or Amazon to deliver household goods, but also to allow for public safety, scientific monitoring and inspections—even emergency delivery of transplant organs.

According to Chao, “This will help communities reap the considerable economic benefits of this growing industry, and help our country remain a global technology leader.”

Read more about the increasing use of drones in public safety at Traffic Crash Assessment is Faster and More Accurate with Drones.

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