New FAA rules prohibit cargo delivery by drone

If you want to deliver cargo by drone in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration may have just grounded your plans.

Under the recently released rules proposed by the FAA for operating non-recreational unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) under 55 pounds, delivery of packages by drone would be prohibited in the U.S.

The FAA rules, as currently proposed, may be a death knell – at least in the U.S. – for projects such as the Prime Air package delivery service that Amazon has been testing for several years, as well as a similar project still in development by Google.

According to the FAA, an operator will be required to maintain visual line of sight of a small drone at all times, or have an observer maintain visual contact with the UAS. The person flying the drone is considered the operator, according to the FAA. An operator has to be at least 17-years-old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an FAA-approved UAS operator certificate. The operator has to pass the test every two years to maintain the certificate.

In the interest of safety, the operator needs to be aware of manned aircraft in the area and, if there is risk of a collision, yield to the manned aircraft. Likewise, if the drone could be a hazard to people or property, the operator must end the flight. Weather conditions, airspace restrictions and people must be considered before flying, to avoid risk or injury if the operator loses control of the drone. The rules limit use of drones to daytime.

The FAA has limited altitude to 500 feet, and the speed of the UAS must not exceed 100 mph. Operators must also stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace, and obey any temporary flight restrictions set forth by the agency.

Operators are also responsible to ensure the drone is safe before flying, performing a pre-flight check to ensure that there is a communication link between the control station and the drone.

The rules don’t apply to model aircraft, which have their own set of rules. Government aircraft operations generally don’t apply because they operate under a certificate of waiver authorization process. However, a government operator could comply with and fly under the new rules. The FAA is taking comments on the rules, as it will be about a year before they fall into place.

For more information visit www.knowbeforeyoufly.org

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