Long-Awaited FAA Proposed Rules For Drones

Controlling a quadcopter drone

A much-anticipated FAA announcement regarding the rules for drones looks to be good news for R/C enthusiasts as well as photographers.


On Sunday the FAA issued the much-anticipated proposed rules for drones…actually the Overview of Small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. If you were concerned that the FAA was going to propose some kind of clampdown and require a private pilot’s license, rest assured, that’s not in the proposal. In fact, the rules are mostly combination of common sense measures about where a drone can fly and basic “rules of the road” knowledge requirements. In summary, I would say the message from the FAA is Keep Calm And Fly On…Just Don’t Be Stupid (I’m paraphrasing).

Here are some of the highlights:

For the operator:

  • UAS pilots will be considered “operators”–you won’t have to go to flight school to be abel to use your drone.
  • Pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA approved facility
  • Be vetted by the TSA
  • Be at least 17 years old
  • Make the drone available for inspection upon request
  • Report accidents within 10 days if they result in injury or property damage

For the drone:

  • The drone must weigh less than 55lbs
  • “Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.”
  • Visual line of sight must be maintained by the operator or a a visual observer
  • Daylight flying only
  • Max altitude to be 500 feet

All in all the NPRM as it’s called, looks like good news for R/C hobbyists (at least those who are 17 and older) as well as photographers and videographers who are exploring drones for imaging and not necessarily as flying enthusiasts. The proposed rules now proceed to a 60-day comment period before final rules are issued.

Recommended reading:

Matt McFarland’s Washington Post Innovations blog post here.

Megan Geuss’ Ars Technica post about a No-Fly-Zone database here.

Sean Gallagher’s Ars Technica post about no-fly firmware being built into drone controllers in the wake of the drone that crashed on the White House grounds here. (By the way…common sense includes not being drunk and flying a drone through the epicenter of the US Federal Government’s leadership appartus.)

Adam Clark Estes writes a less enthusiastic analysis of the NPRM for Gizmodo here.