FAA Creating Drone Rules: How Close Will They Be Able To Fly To People On The Ground?

While the popularity of using drones is increasing, pressure is being placed on officials at the FAA to finally start to craft a set of rules and laws on drone use. Currently, a drone can only be used in open areas, away from groups of people and airplanes.

New guidelines established by the FAA would allow drone users to fly their devices around populated areas as long as the drone stays at least 20 feet above and at least 10 feet to the side of any person on the ground. If a drone weighs less than half of a pound, no other rules would be put in place. If a drone weighs more than half of a pound, other rules may be put in place based on what kind of damage the drone could do if it were to crash.

Fear of a drone being used as a weapon for terrorists is one of the main reasons why it is not yet legal for drones to fly over areas where a large group of people are together. Venues like the Super Bowl, World Series, or Rose Bowl are some of the places that are off-limits to drones. This rule may need to be modified in the future since some companies are looking at how to use drone technology for commercial purposes. Earl Lawrence, director of the FAA’s unmanned systems integration office, commented on the future guidelines of drone use.

“This is about what are the additional requirements that should be imposed for a small (drone) to operate over an individual who is not a participating individual.”

The FAA is serious about putting rules in place for drones that weigh up to 55 pounds. The FAA has mentioned that they currently do not have any idea as to when the new guidelines will be finished and then enacted. FAA spokesman Les Dorr said, “We’re going to make it a priority, but we don’t have a timeline yet.”

This process is going to be one that takes some time. The FAA understands the importance of making sure they can come up with rules that would cover virtually anything that could possibly happen when a drone is being operated.

The FAA has contacted numerous experts in the drone industry to help craft the new rules and guidelines. The first meeting took place a month ago on March, 8. Initially, the FAA wanted to focus on a drone that had a maximum weight of 4.4 pounds. It was then decided by the FAA that the weight of a drone at this size was not as important as how the drone functioned and performed. The expert group was tasked with coming up with rules for drones and grouped these rules into four categories.

The first category covered a drone that had a maximum weight of half of a pound. As stated earlier, these drones would be allowed to fly above and near people with no restrictions as long as there was a one percent, or less, chance of an injury happening if that drone were to crash.

The second category covered drones known as small quadcopters. These drones could also fly over and near people as long as the chance of an injury due to a crash was one percent or less.

The third category dealt with drones used for work. These drones could be used in closed or restricted areas but could not fly over crowds of people. The injury from a crash threshold was increased to 30 percent or less.

The last category covered drones that would be able to have a sustained amount of flight time. These would be drones that could potentially be used as deliver services. Amazon and Dominos pizza are just two companies that want to use drone technology to deliver their products. Operators of these types of drones will have to prove to the FAA that these drones can be used safely and only result in injuries 30 percent of the time or less if the drone crashes. Another part of this category will be using the community to draw up specific flight paths for these types of drones.

Do you think the FAA creating drone rules will result in an increase or decrease of drone usage?

[Image Via AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi]