Attorney Ashley Felton will be a featured panelist at the North Carolina Drone Summit and Flight Expo in August! Ashley will be sharing her knowledge of FAA and NC drone regulations along with some of the most prominent people and companies in the drone/UAV industry. Register for this event at ncdronesummit.com!
If you're into flying a recreational drone in and around Raleigh parks, you may want to pencil in the Raleigh City Council meeting scheduled on July 13, 2017. The City of Raleigh has proposed operating regulations specific to recreational drone use in city parks that shows an overall theme of PRIVACY. DUN DUN DUN. While most of the proposed regulations mirror both the North Carolina and FAAlaws/regs already in existence, some of the proposed regulations add additional burdens and difficulties to recreational drone pilots.
A new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate may give more regulatory power to state and local governments when it comes to drone use. These varying laws and regs may impact commercial drone users and their ability to operate fluidly across state lines. Also, have you heard about the D.C. District Court case that held recreational drone registration unlawful? Cray.
This means commercial drone use is no longer something sneaky you do behind the FAA's back. Instead, you can do it legally- starting in late August- so long as all the FAA rules are followed. It also means you no longer have to petition for an exemption unless you want some or all of the UAV rules waived for your particular use. In other words, the exemption certificates we discussed here and here are probably no longer needed unless you are really thinking outside the box about commercial drone use.
What are the Final FAA Rules on Small UAVs?
As suspected, the final rules look a lot like the proposed rules we discussed here with a few additions/adjustments. Some highlights of the new final rules:
- UAVs cannot be operated over any person "not directly participating in the operation" nor can they be operated under a covered structure or inside a covered stationary vehicle.
- UAVs must weigh less than 55 pounds.
- UAVs must be operated by a Remote Pilot in Command within the Pilot's Visual Line-of-Sight (VLOS).
- UAVs must be operated during daylight only - which extends to "civil twilight" (30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset).
- A first-person view camera cannot satisfy the "see-and-avoid" requirement but may be used as long as the "see-and-avoid" requirement is met in other ways.
- UAVs can only have a max groundspeed of 100 miles per hour and a max altitude of 400 feet above ground level.
- You can't carry toxic or other hazardous materials with your UAV.
- UAVs may not be operated from a moving aircraft or moving vehicle (unless the vehicle is moving in a sparsely populated area).
- UAVs can only carry things is that are securely attached and the flight characteristics/safety are not compromised. #AmazonWin
- You cannot operate more than one UAV at a time. #AmazonFail
What about the Pilots?
Most of the proposed rules remain in the final rules. Pilots of small UAVs must hold an airman certificate with a small UAV rating or be under the the direct supervision of a person who holds this certificate. How do you get this airman certificate? You must be 16 years old, pass a TSA test and pass an FAA aeronautical knowledge test.
REMEMBER! If you are operating the UAV in North Carolina, you will need to comply with the NC-specific rules for pilots and UAV operation, as well. Good thing we review the North Carolina rules here and here.
Other Interesting Facts?
The FAA can request a number of documents pertinent to small UAVs, including inspection and test documents and safety records. Speaking of safety, if you #fail as a pilot and cause $500 worth of property damage, serious injury, and/or loss of consciousness (presumably to a human or beloved family pet), you must report the incident to the FAA within 10 days. Also, preflight inspections are a required prerequisite before the UAV can lawfully leave the ground.
If you are an over-achiever and would like to review this FAA Summary of the Final UAV rules, you can find it here.
As many of you have probably guessed, when the FAA finally took note of all the drones in the sky and said "Hey! I can regulate that!" North Carolina also stood up and said "I see your regulations, FAA, and raise you these!" You may not realize it, but North Carolina is also in the drone game and has its own body of laws restricting commercial use of drones. Put more simply: if you are using a drone for a commercial purpose within the state of North Carolina, you not only have the FAA regulations to worry about but you also have a layer of state regulations. (States' rights at its finest).
North Carolina says __________ about Drones.
North Carolina actually has quite a bit to say about drones. Far too much to review in a single blog post but here are the highlights:
- North Carolina drones are regulated by the NCDOT's Division of Aviation.
- North Carolina and the FAA have the same definition of "commercial use" when applied to use of drones.
- North Carolina commercial drone operators must obtain a North Carolina permit. (Application can be found here)
- In order to lawfully use a drone in North Carolina for a commercial purpose, the operator must first obtain a Section 333 Exemption through the FAA (we reviewed this exemption here and here).
- North Carolina drone operators must pass an NCDOT Knowledge Test. (Here is an NCODT study guide!)
- North Carolina drone operators must have a valid drivers license and be at least 17 years old.
- North Carolina drone operators must hold a valid Airman Certificate through the FAA or have a sponsor with a valid Airman Certificate.
- All drone users need to register their drone with the FAA (We reviewed the registration requirement here).
- Do not operate a drone within a 5-mile radius of an airport.
Hello FAA, you've been mighty busy. We blogged earlier this year about a proposed small drone/UAV registration requirement and as of this week, the registration requirements have been (mostly) finalized and they kick-in just in time for the Christmas holiday. Hooray!
I may sound sarcastic but drone registration does serve a pretty important purpose. As we have perviously mentioned, drone interference has become a burdensome issue at airports nationwide. As a hater of all things air travel, I am sympathetic to the fact that pesky little drones need to be stopped in and around airports and other sensitive facilities so I - already hateful traveler - can get on with my life. What I didn't anticipate was a final ruling this soon. The FAA has brought their A-game. Keep in mind the final rule applies to "small" drones/UAVs which is defined as one weighing less than 55 pounds (so pretty much every drone you can find at Wal-Mart, Target, or Amazon.com).
As of December 21, 2015, anyone with a new drone that is using it outside for a recreational purpose (a.k.a. like a model aircraft) must register their drone. As a "Happy Holiday" gift to all the Christmas drone owners, the FAA is waiving the filing fee for the initial 30 days. After that, its a whopping $5 per drone. Yes, I said $5. If you have already been using a small drone prior to December 21st, you have until February 19, 2016 to get it registered; if you get a new drone for Christmas, you must register it BEFORE you take it for a test fly. Once the drone is registered, you will get a nifty Certificate of Aircraft Registration and a Unique Registration Number that must be placed on the drone. You will have to renew this certificate every 3 years. And you have to be 13 years old to register which essentially hints that you should be at least 13 years old to operate a drone. Sorry preteens.
If the thought of registering your drone is giving you a panic attack, rejoice in the fact that it can be done online. For the most part, you will need the name of the manufacturer, model name, and serial number for your drone, as well as the basics like the applicant's name, physical address, email address, etc... Other information may be requested, which brings me to the giant elephant in the blog: What about commercial drones?
As I have reiterated here, here, here, and here, commercial drone use in FAA airspace is not legal. Another way to phrase this: flying a drone for a commercial purpose outside is illegal. Currently, The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) issued in 2014 on small commercial drones is still proposed meaning it is not yet The Law. However, the FAA has been offering Section 333 Exemptions for those companies and people who want to use a drone commercially (we talk about this exemption here and here).
If you have a drone for a commercial purpose, you will need to register it, as well, but that particular database isn't quite up to par. However, it is estimated by the FAA that commercial drone registration will be required sometime around March 31, 2016. In other words, now would be a GREAT time to start on your Section 333 Exemption application so come March 31st, you will be ready to register your drone and legally use it.
You can find the small drone registration here.
The FAA is back in the news when it recently announced a new drone registration program that will require owners of drones to register with the FAA. This comes after the FAA confirms a partnership with CACI International, Inc., who has been developing technology that can detect an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV // a.k.a. "drone") within a certain radius around an airport to prevent a battle of drone vs. plane.
Who flies their recreational drone near RDU?
Someone did. And the FAA wasn't happy (reasonably so). According to the FAA, drone sightings by pilots in and near airports has doubled within the last year. This makes sense considering the purchase of drones has increased dramatically within the last 24 months and drones are easily obtained through vendors like Amazon.com. Most experts agree that this increase in drone purchases will only get higher in the next few years as we wait for the FAA to issue final rules on small UAVs.
Who flies their commercial drone near RDU?
Trick question! Commercial drone use is not allowed without a Section 333 permit so no one should be flying a commercial drone near RDU or anywhere (unless they hold a valid permit).
Don't drone near an airport, please.
For those of you scratching your head, flying a drone near an airport is extremely dangerous. Not only could a drone theoretically interfere with airliner systems but one could literally get eaten by a larger plane's engine which could in turn lead to a terrible accident. Keep in mind a "safe distance" for flying a drone may be miles not feet. Also keep in mind that unusual sightings in FAA airspace often leads to airport delays which we all know to be the bane of every traveler's existence. Considering I will be traveling soon, I ask that everyone refrain from RDU drone use.
The FAA is forming a committee tasked with the goal of coming up with a reasonable registration system. The DMV-style registration plus CACI's technology should help the FAA prevent drone interference and assist them in finding the perpetrators. My guess is whatever this registration system looks like will appear verbatim in the final rules regarding small UAVs we discussed in this blog post and here. If you are anywhere in the vicinity of an airport, I recommend reaching out to a drone attorney to make sure you are not violating any FAA regulations. Once this registration program is confirmed, we'll be here to guide you through the process.