WASHINGTON, D.C. — The drones are coming.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta revealed at a news conference Sept. 25 that six aerial and video companies have been granted permission to operate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the United States, with a seventh company in line for approval.
The regulatory exemptions are the first step to allowing the film and television industry to use UAS in the National Airspace System.
“Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in broadening commercial UAS use while ensuring we maintain our world-class safety record in all forms of flight,” said Foxx. “These companies are blazing a trail that others are already following, offering the promise of new advances in agriculture and utility safety and maintenance.”
In their applications, the firms said the UAS operators will hold private pilot certificates, keep the drones within line of sight at all times and restrict flights to the “sterile area” on the sets. In granting the exemption, the FAA accepted these safety conditions, adding an inspection of the aircraft before each flight, and prohibiting operations at night.
The agency also will issue Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs) that mandate flight rules and timely reports of any accident or incidents, FAA officials said.
“The applicants submitted UAS flight manuals with detailed safety procedures that were a key factor in our approval of their requests,” said Huerta. “We are thoroughly satisfied these operations will not pose a hazard to other aircraft or to people and property on the ground.”
Former Congressman Chris Dodd, now the chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, said the motion picture companies involved have diligently worked to arrive at operating procedures that will provide safe operations.
Each company granted an exception had to show the operations will be safe. Flights will be permitted only during daylight hours. Maximum altitude is 400 feet. The vehicles will not need certificates of airworthiness, Foxx said, “based on a finding they do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security.”
Granting approvals for drones will be a major economic boost, according to Foxx, Huerta, and Dodd.
Foxx and Huerta stressed how their government offices have strived to assure safety both to people and property on the ground and to other aircraft.
Drones have been in use throughout the world, including in the United States, although the FAA is still hammering out regulations for the commercial use of drones.
Still, general aviation pilots — as well as GA’s advocacy groups — remain concerned about sharing the skies with unmanned drones.
The Washington Post reported within the past two years there have been 15 cases of drones flying dangerously close to airports or aircraft carrying passengers. Since 2001, more than 400 large military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world.
Still it’s clear that drones are an inevitable addition to the National Airspace System. In Germany, DHL now uses drones to deliver packages, with plans already announced by Amazon to use drones for deliveries. Drones are also expected to become commonplace in agricultural aviation, pipeline patrols, and other traditional general aviation missions.
You can view the FAA’s exemption grants here.
For more information: FAA.gov