Drone day afternoon: A closer look at the FAA’s new rules
Friday, July 15, 2016
We'll soon see if the new FAA drone rules — the much heralded Part 107 — will bring some sky sanity when they take effect Aug. 29. More than anything else, the rules are designed to impose a safety mindset on the unmanned aircraft community.
Commercial drone pilots will have to be licensed, pass a knowledge test, undergo TSA background screening, follow a long list of rules and face consequences when they bust them — just like their real aircraft driver brethren. You can guess what some of these are: no drunk droning, preflight the status of your aircraft, and review the airspace before you launch.
Most of this is simple common sense, and the list of restrictions being imposed on the once happy-go-lucky populace is extensive. But it cuts out a big piece of the drone community, those operated strictly for hobby or recreational use, and one could argue they are a bigger part of the problem.
That community will be governed by FAR 101E, covering model aircraft. Aside from registering their aircraft and abiding by those rules, it's pretty much business as usual.
However, the FAA is going out of its way to drill home the safety culture to that community as well, stressing the importance of checking the FAA's B4UFLY app before each flight to check for proximity to airports, helipads and prohibited public spaces, and for temporary flight restrictions and notices to airmen.
Hobbyists are also reminded of the prohibition on operating within five miles of an airport or helipad without giving notice to the airport and/or ATC, the requirement to maintain line of sight contact with their vehicle and an altitude no higher than 400 feet above ground level, and illegal acts including night flying, buzzing people, vehicles and sports stadiums. Of paramount importance: "The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft."
Now here is the confusing part, according to guidance on the FAA website, that I can see leading to all kinds of problems: "However, the airport operator cannot prohibit or prevent the model aircraft operator from operating within five miles of the airport. Flying over the objection of an airport operator may constitute a careless or reckless operation in violation of FAA regulations. Additionally, the UAS operator must comply with any applicable airspace requirements."
One can see this leading to all sorts of arbitrary enforcement scenarios.
Helicopter EMS crews can do one simple thing to help the FAA implement its new drone policy. Check out the B4UFLY app, and make sure your hospital helipads and approaches are on it. If they aren't, ring up your local FAA Flight Standards District Office.
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