FAA’s Proposed Drone Rules Won’t Bar Photography

February 17, 2015

By Greg Scoblete

After months of speculation, the FAA has issued a set of proposals to regulate commercial and hobbyist drone use. 

For commercial photographers, the proposals are less onerous than the ones originally rumored in a Wall Street Journal article published in the fall and appear to leave the door open to commercial drone photography, provided operators adhere to the FAA’s proposed rules. Still, some applications, like concert or event photography, appear to be ruled out unless the operator is using a “micro” drone (i.e. one weighing under 4.4 pounds). 

Here’s some of what the FAA is proposing:

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer.
  • At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
  • Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
  • Proposes 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.
  • Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).
  • Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
  • Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.

The full proposal can be viewed here. In addition to the above, drone operators would not need a license but would instead by required to take an “aeronautical knowledge” test to verify that you know what the airspace rules are. As long as you’re over 17 years old and take the test every two years, you will be permitted to operate your unmanned vehicle. Drone operators would also be required to report to the FAA any drone accident that results in injury or property damage within 10 days of the event.

The FAA is seeking public comment over the next 60 days. If you don’t like what you see, you can sound off here.