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FAA Finalizes Small UAS Rule

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the long-awaited final rule governing small UAS operations. The Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule (Part 107) contains few surprises with just a handful of notable revisions from the initial proposed rule, but marks a significant regulatory step in the continued integration of UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS). The finalized operational limitations remain mostly unchanged with a notable NASAO-supported revision to lower the maximum operating altitude down to 400 feet AGL. UAS operations will still require a minimum of three miles of visibility, and the prohibition of night flights remains – however a UAS will now be allowed to fly during civil twilight (1 hour before/after sunset) with proper anti-collision lighting. UAS shall not exceed 100 mph and may not fly over individuals not participating in the operation. Flexibility is expected to eventually be added to this provision for smaller UAS via a subsequent rule based on the recommendations of the Micro UAS Task Force of which NASAO participated in.

As expected, Commercial UAS operators will no longer be required to possess a part 61 pilot’s license. However, as an alternative, Remote Pilots in Command must obtain a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating by passing a special aeronautical test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center. NASAO supported this specialized education and training component and recommended against self-certification or unsupervised online testing as unsuitable and unsecure alternative. Also added as a new provision is a requirement that an individual serving as Remote Pilot in Command must be 16-years-old or older. UAS will not require an airworthiness certificate under this rule, but operators must conduct preflight checks.

Absent from the final rule, despite several comments on the subject, was a statement regarding state and local preemption. “The FAA is not persuaded that including a preemption provision in the final rule is warranted at this time. Preemption issues involving small UAS necessitate a case-specific analysis that is not appropriate in a rule of general applicability. Additionally, certain legal aspects concerning small UAS use may be best addressed at the State or local level. For example, State law and other legal protections for individual privacy may provide recourse for a person whose privacy may be affected through another person’s use of a UAS.” The rule also specifically advises operators to become familiar with state and local laws and rules related to UAS prior to operation.

Finally, despite calls from certain industry advocates to expand the operational limitations — beyond-line-of-sight (blos) operations and multi-aircraft operations by a single operator are still prohibited. However, a streamlined waiver process will be in place to permit exceptions to these and other part 107 restrictions on a case-by-case basis. And, the FAA is expected to promulgate subsequent rules to address these types of operations as  operational testing and enabling technological capabilities continue to progress.

The rule will take effect in 60 days. The full press release, summary, and full text of the rule can be viewed here.

Press Release

Part 107 Rule

Summary of Part 107 Rule

FAA Fact Sheet

Categories: News, Uncategorized
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