Both civilians and commercial drone users alike have been long awaiting an official list of regulations from the FAA. While this release was initially expected to be published by the end of November, industry and government officials are now pushing that timeline to the end of January 2015.
While civilian drone use has been allowed up to this point, it is expected that these new regulations will enforce stricter criteria onto both civilian and commercial users. These rules are expected to include; restricting drones over 55 pounds, flying under an altitude of 400 feet, flying during daylight hours only, and requiring drones to be kept in sight of the operator. The most troublesome of these rules will most likely be the possibility of requiring each operator to obtain a pilots license.
The FAA has already issued four permits thus far; one to Trimble Navigation Limited, one to VDOS Global LLC, one to Clayco Inc, and two to Woolpert Inc. They have also issued permits to six film production companies as well, including Aerial Mob, Astraeus Aerial, HeliVideo Productions, Pictorvision, Snaproll Media, and Vortex Aerial. Hollywood has made a point of stressing both the significant cost savings and improved safety of using drones over helicopter filming. Allowing Hollywood to use drones will also allow more of these movies to be able to film domestically, instead of having to outsource these services abroad where the regulations are more lax.
The highest concern of both the FAA and government officials has been the risk of collision between drones and commercial aircrafts. Airline Captain Ben Burman was recently quoted at an Air Line Pilots Association forum as saying “ As a Boeing 737 Captain, I’ll be damned if myself and 178 other people are taken down by a 12-pound or a 150-pound piece of metal coming through my windshield. There are too many near misses occurring every day like this”.
Luckily congress has acknowledged both the practical uses and economic benefits of commercial drone use. Representative Bill Shuster of PA was quoted as saying “We understand UAS are an exciting technology with the potential to transform parts of our economy…It is our responsibility to take a closer look”.