On Sunday, February 15, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed new rules applicable to the use of commercial drones. The FAA asked for public comments on its proposal, and it is likely that it will take at least a year before the rules are finalized.
If adopted as proposed, these rules will enable companies and individuals to fly unmanned aircrafts weighing less than 55lbs. (25kg) at a speed that may not exceed 100 mph. The proposal states that commercial drones must fly below the altitude of 500 feet, nighttime flights are prohibited, and the most restrictive of all is the requirement that all drones must fly within the operator’s line of sight. This means that the drone must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the drone with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses. The rules are quite flexible, yet they are restrictive enough to put the concept of a “delivery drone” out of reach for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, even within the parameters of the proposed rules, drones could perform other services such as assisting in search and rescue operations, inspecting tall structures, monitoring crops, etc.
With respect to the operators, they must be at least 17 years old, would have to pass an aeronautical knowledge test at a FAA-approved center every two years, be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration, obtain a drone operator certificate and must make the drone available to the FAA, upon request, for inspection or testing. In addition, no person may operate more than one drone at any one time.