Drones

FAA panel says small drones could operate in populated areas

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The final report the Micro UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration recommends dividing popular small-drone technology into four categories based on size and allowing some to be operated in populated areas.

The rules could make commercial operation easier because they cover small drones that weigh 1 1/2 pounds to 55 pounds and are used for services such as package delivery and other low-altitude applications.

The recommendations are the latest in the FAA's efforts to quickly develop rules for operating drones in U.S. airspace. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in March that registrations of privately owned drones jumped from 180,000 to almost 400,000 in January.

The newest recommendations, which the FAA said are now under review, were developed under the same joint government/industry collaboration that the FAA used to quickly develop its drone registry last year.

The report recommends establishing four categories of small drones, defined primarily by the risk of injury to people below. For each category, the group said weight and potential impact should be used as baselines. The tiniest drones would be allowed to fly above crowds and people with no restriction.

The committee also recommended requiring manufacturers to label their products in accordance with industry standards and provide an operating manual that includes instructions for flying the drones in populated areas. Operators would be responsible for knowing the rules that apply to their particular drones.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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