NPRM Central

The proposed rule can be found here, a summary document here.  The Press Release is down below along with excerpts from the cost evaluation.

Summary of the proposed rule:

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg)
  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) and daylight only (First-person view (“FPV”) camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used if VLOS is satisfied)
  • Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation
  • May use visual observer (VO) but not required
  • Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots)
  • Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level
  • Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station
  • Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission – operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission
  • No person may act as an operator or VO for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one tim
  • No careless or reckless operations
  • Requires preflight inspection by the operator

The proposed rule sets forth certification requirements for operators and aircraft:

  • Pilots of a small UAS would be considered “operators” (not “PIC”)
  • Operators would be required to:
    • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center (and re-test every 24 months) – most knowledge required for the test is contained in the Aeronautical Information Manual
    • Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration
    • Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires)
  • FAA airworthiness certification not required
    • Operator must maintain a small UAS in condition for safe operation and prior to flight must inspect the UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation
    • Aircraft Registration required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft)
  • Aircraft markings required
    • Same requirements that apply to all other aircraft
    • If aircraft is too small to display markings in standard size, then the aircraft simply needs to display markings in the largest practicable manner

Proposed rule would not apply to model aircraft that satisfy all of the criteria specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 – Hobbyists can still fly under the Model Aircraft Rules

The rule proposes, but does not delineate a microUAS option that would allow operations in Class G airspace, over people not involved in the operation, provided the operator certifies he or she has the requisite aeronautical knowledge to perform the operation.

– Duke of Drones

———–BREAK – PRESS CONFERENCE ———–

The audio of the press conference is available here.

The FAA Press Release follows:

For Immediate Release
February 15, 2015
DOT Contact: Suzi Emmerling Phone: 202-365-1763
FAA Contact: Laura J Brown Phone: 202-359-3680
Regulations will facilitate integration of small UAS into U.S. aviation system

WASHINGTON – The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration today proposed a framework of regulations that would allow routine use of certain small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in today’s aviation system, while maintaining flexibility to accommodate future technological innovations.
The FAA proposal offers safety rules for small UAS (under 55 pounds) conducting non-recreational operations. The rule would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits.
The proposed rule also includes extensive discussion of the possibility of an additional, more flexible framework for “micro” UAS under 4.4 pounds. The FAA is asking the public to comment on this possible classification to determine whether it should include this option as part of a final rule. The FAA is also asking for comment about how the agency can further leverage the UAS test site program and an upcoming UAS Center of Excellence to further spur innovation at “innovation zones.”
The public will be able to comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, which can be found at www.regulations.gov.  Separate from this proposal, the FAA intends to hold public meetings to discuss innovation and opportunities at the test sites and Center of Excellence.  These meetings will be announced in a future Federal Register notice.
 “Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The proposed rule would require an operator to maintain visual line of sight of a small UAS. The rule would allow, but not require, an operator to work with a visual observer who would maintain constant visual contact with the aircraft. The operator would still need to be able to see the UAS with unaided vision (except for glasses). The FAA is asking for comments on whether the rules should permit operations beyond line of sight, and if so, what the appropriate limits should be.
“We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.”
Under the proposed rule, the person actually flying a small UAS would be an “operator.” An operator would have to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate. To maintain certification, the operator would have to pass the FAA knowledge tests every 24 months. A small UAS operator would not need any further private pilot certifications (i.e., a private pilot license or medical rating).
The new rule also proposes operating limitations designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground:
  • A small UAS operator must always see and avoid manned aircraft. If there is a risk of collision, the UAS operator must be the first to maneuver away.
  • The operator must discontinue the flight when continuing would pose a hazard to other aircraft, people or property.
  • A small UAS operator must assess weather conditions, airspace restrictions and the location of people to lessen risks if he or she loses control of the UAS.
  • A small UAS may not fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.
  • Flights should be limited to 500 feet altitude and no faster than 100 mph.
  • Operators must stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace areas, and obey any FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs).
The proposed rule maintains the existing prohibition against operating in a careless or reckless manner. It also would bar an operator from allowing any object to be dropped from the UAS.
Operators would be responsible for ensuring an aircraft is safe before flying, but the FAA is not proposing that small UAS comply with current agency airworthiness standards or aircraft certification. For example, an operator would have to perform a preflight inspection that includes checking the communications link between the control station and the UAS. Small UAS with FAA-certificated components also could be subject to agency airworthiness directives.
The new rules would not apply to model aircraft.  However, model aircraft operators must continue to satisfy all of the criteria specified in Sec. 336 of Public Law 112-95, including the stipulation that they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. Generally speaking, the new rules would not apply to government aircraft operations, because we expect that these government operations will typically continue to actively operate under the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) process unless the operator opts to comply with and fly under the new small UAS regulations.
In addition to this proposal, earlier today, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum concerning transparency, accountability, and privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties protections for the Federal Government’s use of UAS in the national airspace system which directs the initiation of a multi-stakeholder engagement process to develop a framework for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues concerning commercial and private UAS use.
The current unmanned aircraft rules remain in place until the FAA implements a final new rule.
———–BREAK – COST ANALYSIS ———–

Here are some quotes from the economic evaluation, which is also liked above.  These are essentially directly cut from the economic analysis.

    • This proposed rule would allow small UAS that weigh less than 55 pounds, to be operated non-recreationally in the NAS. This operation would be conducted in accordance with the limitations set forth in proposed Part 107.
    • The proposed rule would also codify the special rule for model aircraft that Congress created in Public Law 112-95, § 336.
    • The proposed rule would require an applicant to demonstrate knowledge of the following information to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge written test:
      • applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;
      • airspace classification and operating requirements, obstacle clearance requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation;
      • effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance;
      • small unmanned aircraft system configuration management;
      • emergency procedures;
      • crew resource management;
      • radio communication procedures;
      • determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft;
      • physiological effects of drugs and alcohol;
      • aeronautical decision-making and judgment; and
      • airport operations.
    • Currently the FAA Regulations and the “Aeronautical Information Manual” contain 80 percent of the information that a small UAS operator or applicant would need to pass a knowledge test.
    • TSA is required to conduct a security threat assessment for all persons holding a FAA pilot certificate. As operators of small UAS would hold FAA airmen certificates, all applicants for such certificates must be vetted by TSA.
    • Section 107.89 would require each small UAS aircraft to be registered with the FAA and
listed in the Aircraft Registration database in order to operate within the NAS….Section 47.17 provides for a $5 registration fee to an owner of any aircraft.

    The proposed requirements would allow small UAS to operate in the NAS while minimizing the risk they may pose to manned aviation operations and the general public.

  • Lastly, the proposed rule would prohibit model aircraft from endangering the safety of the NAS.
  • If the proposed rule were adopted, operators would be permitted to participate in certain non-recreational activities from which they are currently prohibited.
  • Issues for the FAA: (1) different frame of reference for seeing and avoiding other aircraft; and (2) possible loss of positive control. Both of these issues are discussed in more detail in the NPRM preamble.
  • The FAA has analyzed the benefits and the costs associated with this proposed rule. The estimated out-of-pocket cost for a small UAS operator to be FAA-certified is less than $300.
  • We determined that this proposed rule would: have benefits that would justify its costs; would potentially have an economic impact of greater than $100 million per year in terms of benefits (which might be derived from new small UAS businesses and applications) and thus would be an economically “significant regulatory action” as defined in section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866
  • Currently, the FAA has granted about 300 Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to allow Federal, state, and local governments to operate small UAS in the NAS under strictly limited conditions.
  • Therefore, small UAS non-recreational operations are not in compliance with FAA federal aviation regulations without an FAA-issued exemption.
  • Since this proposed rule allows knowledge test centers (KTC) to administer small UAS 
operator initial or recurrent knowledge tests, the FAA assumes that the KTC would collocate themselves with a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) or Other Designated Authority to validate an applicant’s identity, accept the knowledge test results and the small UAS operator application for review and submission to the FAA AFS-760 Airman Certification Branch for processing.
  • The cost to administer an FAA approved small UAS knowledge test, including compliance fees, to a small UAS applicant or operator is $150. 


The report estimated the economic benefit of UAS integration could create more than 70,000 jobs in the United States with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion in the first three years of integration and could grow to $82.0 billion by 2025.30 Although small UAS would be a fraction of this growth, this proposed rule is the first step to integrating small UAS into the NAS that could enable the job and economic growth envisioned by AUVSI. In January 2014, AUVSI reported that each day the integration of UAS is delayed would lead to $27 million in lost economic impact.
  • 
The four potential small UAS markets are:
    • Aerial photography
      • NTSB Accident Investigation Number: WPR09LA160: 3/20/2009: The helicopter pilot was circling over a residential structure to allow his passenger to take photographs. He failed to maintain adequate rotor rpm while maneuvering at a low altitude and crashed the helicopter resulting in no fatalities and no injuries. The hull sustained “substantial damage.”
    • Precision agriculture
      • The UAS being used in Japan to apply pesticides and fertilizers are much larger than the small UAS that would be authorized to operate under part 107….it can be used to monitor applications and yields.
This proposed rule would enable commercial remote-sensing small UAS technology to photograph and analyze field images over time.
At only a $5 per acre cost reduction, this proposal could save billions of dollars in precision agriculture alone.
    • Search and rescue/law enforcement
      • A law enforcement agency currently hires a local helicopter service at $650 an hour. This agency has been able to obtain Certificate of Authorizations (COA) for some small UAS operations. The agency has informed us that these small UAS operations cost approximately $100/hour. Using a small UAS has saved the law enforcement agency $550 an hour, which is about an 85 percent savings. For a six month period, this law enforcement agency contracted a local operator who flew 10 small UAS mission hours with a total savings of $5,500, which would be an $11,000 annual savings for this law enforcement agency.
    • Bridge inspection
      • Routine inspections are performed at 24-month intervals. The routine inspections identify the current structural and hydraulic adequacy and condition of the bridge. A report is prepared with repair recommendations and recommendations for further analysis or investigation. As summarized in Table 1, there were a total of 596,800 bridges in the United States in 2006.
 To get close enough for an adequate inspection can be difficult, dangerous, and expensive. With a 24-month inspection interval, we estimate about 300,000 bridges need to be inspected each year.
      • Between 2004 and 2012, there were 95 fatalities involving climbers working on cell and other towers.40 One example of such an accident occurred in 2008, in Southwest Indiana, involving a tower climber who was photographing antennas on a cell tower that were to be replaced when the cell network was upgraded.
  • The FAA estimates that approximately 7,550 commercial small UAS would be operating at the end of five years after the effective date of the final rule.
  • Industry experts from the ARC estimated that there could be up to 39 separate manufacturers and about 200 different small UAS designs that will make up the affected future fleet.
  • In order to maintain his or her small UAS operator certification, the FAA proposes to require that applicants demonstrate their aeronautical knowledge by passing a recurrent test every 24 months thereafter.
  • Although a flight school could be an option for learning the required material, the proposed rule does not require applicants to attend flight school, or otherwise require initial or recurrent knowledge test training
  • Upon successfully completing a knowledge test and vetting by TSA, an operator would be issued an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a rating for small UAS and may begin utilizing a small UAS for non-recreational operations.
  • In estimating the proposed rule’s cost for initial and recurrent administering knowledge based tests, we use $150 regardless of whether the test is an initial or a recurrent test.
  • We multiply the number of small UAS applicants, by year, by $130. Table 8 shows the proposed rule’s total estimated cost for the TSA security threat determination over the five year analysis period.
  • The FAA does not anticipate that the proposed rule would increase its legal costs of enforcement.
    • This is because, in the absence of this rulemaking, there already exist statutory and regulatory requirements that govern the operation of a UAS.
    • The FAA currently spends its enforcement resources ensuring compliance with these existing requirements.

 

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