Gregory S Neal
The White House is currently reviewing a series of policy initiatives related to the integration of drones into the national airspace. At the conclusion of the policy review process, the White House will act on both the FAA’s sUAS rule and on matters related to privacy. For an industry begging for clear rules that won’t stifle innovation, the next few weeks will be the most critical since the passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
The FAA is preparing to publicly release their rules for small drones (under 55 pounds). Rather than recognizing the potential benefits of small drones, and distinguishing between very risky high powered, high speed, heavier drones, and less risky lightweight aircraft (some weighing as few as one or two pounds), it appears that the FAA is poised to treat all sUAS as identical. The rules, according to the Wall Street Journal, will ”require operators to have a license and limit flights to daylight hours, below 400 feet and within sight of the person at the controls.” If the reporting is accurate, these rules will disappoint many and will put America far behind other developed nations which have already established risk-based rules that recognize that large 55 pound fuel powered unmanned aircraft present different risks than small battery powered multicopters, and even smaller remote controlled toys.