At the recent conferences of the ABA Forum on Construction and ACEC, the use of drones and potential liability relating to their use was a hot topic of conversation. Engineers, surveyors, contractors and others have been using drones for aerial photography of potential project sites, bridge inspections, and to document progress on ongoing projects amongst other applications. These activities have been ongoing in many cases without compliance with applicable regulatory requirements.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which has authority for regulating aircraft, has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for which the public comment period closed April 24, 2015 although there have been numerous requests to extend the comment period. The proposed rule will apply to small commercial aircraft carrying a payload of less than 55 pounds and would limit their use to daylight and visual line of site operations. The proposed rule also contains height restrictions, operator certifications and registration requirements. It is not clear how the FAA proposes to enforce any regulations as it will not apply to noncommercial model aircraft.

A link to the Federal Register citation for the proposed rule, docket ID FAA-2-15-0150 is here.