UAV Regulations | Unmanned Aerial System Guidelines
The guidelines set in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allow private individuals to fly Drones if they follow certain rules that have been in place for a number of years and relate to all radio controlled devices. The drone must remain below an altitude of 400 feet and the person flying the craft must maintain sight of the craft. This therefore makes flying in First Person View (the pilot flies the craft by viewing in on a screen on the remote control transmitter or by viewing it through FPV goggles) illegal. Pilots also have a duty to inform air traffic control if they are going to fly the drone in a five mile radius of the airport. It also categorically states that Unmanned Aircraft Systems should not under any circumstance be used for commercial gain unless permission has been granted. In the UK the Civil Aviation authority have issue an update saying that UAV’s in the 7 to 20 kilogram range will in the future be assessed for airworthiness. One can envisage queues of operators turning up at Gatwick Airport carrying their drones for inspection. This change is a safety measure to prevent damage to persons or property in built up areas and is likely to be relaxed for operators involved in oil related surveys or precision agriculture. In Australia they have similar legislation to the UK in that in order to fly a remotely piloted aircraft for commercial gain then you will require an unmanned aerial vehicle controller certificate as well as a UAV operator certificate.
Unmanned Aerial System regulations
Urgent clarification by both the FAA and the Civil Aviation Authorities in the UK and Australia are what rules and regulations and going to be put in place for sub 7 kilogram drones. These sized craft are affordable, readily available to be purchased by any individual and they are usually ready to fly out of the box. You can purchase a Phantom Quadcopter made by Chinese company DJI Innovations add a GoPro Action Camera and state of the art Gimbal for under $2000 and take commercial quality videos. New lower priced models are appearing every month as UAV makers try to replicate the success of the Phantom Quadcopter and another Chinese company Hubsan Technology are conducting rigorous testing of their flagship model the Hubsan X4 PRO H109S Quadcopter. Companies are already offering training to operators of these small sized UAV’s so they can get the required certification to operate them commercially.
UAV Regulatory Infrastructure
It has been questioned whether or not the regulatory bodies have the necessary infrastructure in place to keep pace with the demand from those who wish to use these types of small unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial purposes. Unmanned Aerial System regulation needs to be put in place swiftly if this new industry is to advance and flourish. Another point that needs serious consideration is as these UAV’s are becoming smaller and far easier to transport (in custom made backpacks) operators are likely to take them on vacations to countries where restrictions or regulations are not in place. You won’t want to have your beloved Phantom or Hubsan X4 PRO confiscated or receive a hefty fine for any infringements of local laws.
Monitoring unmanned aerial vehicle usage and enforcing the regulations is going to be a nightmare for aviation authorities. It will be almost impossible to tell whether the operator is using the UAV purely as a hobby or as a commercial enterprise. How can you be sure the pilot is flying within line of sight rather than flying First Person View (FPV)? Will you be able to find the exact location of the pilot?
Cease and desist order quashed and fine overruled
When Raphael Pirker was fined $10,000 for recklessly flying his Unmanned Aerial Vehicle over the University of Virginia he appealed and Judge Patrick Geraghty of the National Transportation Safety Board, which decides appeals of enforcement actions by the FAA upheld his appeal stating that the FAA has no authority over small unmanned aircraft. A panel of U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently ruled that a “cease and desist” email to a search-and-rescue drone operator in Texas didn’t have the force of law.