The Micro Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”) has submitted its report and recommendations to FAA. The ARC
identified four small UAS categories. Whereas Category 1 includes UAS which weigh less than 250 grams, micro UAS fall within categories 2 through 4 based on the likelihood of causing injury “as expressed in the rule by not exceeding an impact energy threshold defined by the FAA in J/cm2.” Each category would be subject to any restrictions that may be promulgated under the proposed 14 C.F.R. Part 107 “Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems”, including by not limited to altitude and time of operations restrictions. The recommended categories are as follows:
- Under Category 1, a UAS may be operated over people if the weight of the UAS is 250 grams or less.
- Under Category 2, a UAS may be operated over people if it does not exceed the specified energy threshold and if it complies with industry consensus performance standards. The operator must also: (1) comply with the operator instruction manual; (2) maintain minimum set-off distances of 20 feet above people’s heads, or 10 feet laterally away from people; and (3) not operate so close to people as to create an undue hazard to those people.
- Under Category 3, a UAS may be operated over people if it does not exceed the specified energy threshold and if it complies with industry consensus performance standards. However, flights over crowds or dense concentrations of people are not permitted. In addition, Category 3 UAS may only operate over people if: (1) the operation is conducted over a closed or restricted access work site with the permission of the site’s owner or operator; or (2) overflight of people is limited to those who are transient or incidental to the operation. The performance standards and operational restrictions that apply to Category 2 operations also apply to Category 3.
- Under Category 4, a small UAS may be operated over people (including over crowds or dense concentrations of people prohibited in Category 3) if the UAS does not exceed the specified energy threshold, if it complies with industry consensus performance standards, and if the operation is conducted in compliance with a documented, risk mitigation plan. The performance standards and operational restrictions that apply to Category 2 operations also apply to Category 4.
The FAA will use the information in the report to develop a flexible, performance-based proposed rule.