FAA to Seek Comment on Rules for Flights Over People, Night Flights and Safe Operations

Photo courtesy of Sorasak via Unsplash.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is set to take a key step toward allowing drones to fly over people and at night. It will soon publish a proposed rule allowing such flights under certain conditions, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao told the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C.

Chao said the FAA is also looking for recommendations on ways to reduce the risk as drones, also called unmanned aircraft systems or UAS, are integrated into the national airspace. The agency will publish the UAS Safe and Secure advance notice of proposed rule making identifying major drone safety and security issues that may pose a threat to other aircraft, to people on the ground or to national security. The FAA is asking the public for recommendations on ways to reduce those risks.

Both documents will be published in the Federal Register in the near future. Unfortunately it is not clear when either will be available as the Federal Register is not operating fully during the partial government shutdown.

“Expanded operations such as operations over people are currently allowed through the FAA’s waiver process on a case-by-case basis, and CNN and State Farm are among the companies already conducting these flights safely,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), in a prepared statement. “A rule that allows for widespread operations over people without requiring a waiver will allow more operators to harness the great potential of UAS.”

“The FAA’s separate call for comments on a proposed rule concerning operational limitations, airspace restrictions, hardware requirements, and associated identification and tracking technologies will further shape a national UAS policy,” added Wynne. “We are very encouraged by the announcement of these proposed rulemakings, and AUVSI welcomes this opportunity to provide comments on these policies, after our members have reviewed and analyzed them, to continue to move the industry forward.”