The FAA released a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems weighing less than 55 pounds.
Some of the proposed rules include:
- Drone operators must be 17 years old and pass a knowledge exam
- Operators must remain within line-of-sight
- Fly at or below 500 feet
- Fly no more than 100 mph
- Airport flight paths, restricted airspace, and temporary flight restrictions are prohibited for drone operation
At first glance, I think those rules are mostly common sense, which is to say they seem to benefit us pilots flying aircraft more than people flying drones. They also prevent the kind of insanity Amazon hinted at when they proposed package delivery by drone service. I started imagining drones buzzing 100 feet above the treetops, mindlessly tracking to our doorsteps to drop off the newest iPad or a pair of boots or whatever. To be honest, I imagine much further out, with hundreds, thousands, swarms of drones zipping around; my imagination is probably too inclined to a dystopian sci-fi future.
The FAA will accept public comment for a few months, then they’ll deliberate for a while longer and finally make an official rule change in the public record. The problem is that us pilots don’t have as much influence as an entity such as Amazon, and I’m afraid that the balance of the rules, currently in favor of pilots flying aircraft, will tip towards the drone operators. It’s a classic situation, the drone operators can claim the government is harming a potential market with unnecessary regulations which will undermine the case for greater safety concerning the people flying aircraft (and their passengers), who have much more to lose than a drone operator.
Imagine if this 10 pound goose were a 30 pound quadcopter: