Not a Lexis+ subscriber? Try it out for free.

Public Policy

Ten Key Points to the FAA's Proposed Small UAV Rule

The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has released proposed rules that would govern the integration of “small” unmanned aircraft systems (“small UAS”) into the National Airspace System. The proposed rules specifically state that they would allow crop monitoring and inspection, aerial photography, and research and development—meaning commercial agricultural uses fall squarely within the new rule. Here is my summary of the proposed rule, followed by some suggestions to current and future drone operators.

Here are the ten most important parts of the new proposed rule which would apply only to "small" drones:

  1. “Small” UAS is defined as an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 lbs.
  2. Flights must remain under 500 feet of altitude.
  3. Flights are restricted to less than 100 mph.
  4. Flight must be within “visual line-of-sight” only. No remote operation guiding an aircraft by only looking through a smart-phone screen on the ground.
  5. Flights may not fly over bystanders (except for the operator).
  6. Flights must occur in daylight hours only.
  7. Operators must certified by the FAA prior to flying. (More on the “operator” requirements coming in a future post.)
  8. Small UAS must yield to all other aircraft and avoid reckless or careless operation.
  9. Operators are limited to flying one UAS at a time.
  10. The operator must conduct pre-flight inspection prior to take off.

These rules are much simpler than I was expecting and should open the door for many agricultural commercial drone uses. Still, the biggest challenge for commercial agricultural drone use under these proposed rules will be the lack of autonomous flight. The ability to do crop mapping requires autonomous, systematic passes over a field.

For those ready to take to the sky, remember that these are only "proposed" rules. The current regulatory framework is still in place--meaning commercial drone use is still illegal. The FAA is awaiting public comments on these proposed rules. After it receives and responds to those comments, the FAA will publish final small UAS regulations. If you are or wish to fly small UAS in the future, you should review the proposed rule and submit your comments to the FAA.

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Room W12–140
West Building Ground Floor
Washington, DC 20590–0001

Read more at Janzen Ag Law Blog by Todd Janzen, Partner, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP.

For more information about LexisNexis products and solutions, connect with us through our corporate site