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FAA Report Recommends Update to Drone Rules

The recommendations outline new regulations, certifications for "beyond visual line of sight" operation

drones, unmanned aircraft systems
Photo courtesy of QForce

Drone pilots, take notice: The Federal Aviation Administration committee is recommending new operational rules and certification criteria for uncrewed aircraft systems operating beyond visual line of sight.

The FAA Beyond Visual Line of Sight Aviation Rulemaking Committee released its final report earlier this month. The committee was tasked with examining how current Part 107 of Title 14 rules (“Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems”) could be modified to allow safe operation of UAS flying beyond the visual range of their pilot. This would include systems that are operated by an off-site remote pilot.

[Related: “Drones Become Part of Radio’s Toolkit”]

The recommendations fall into five main categories that would require amendments to Part 107, as well as drafting of Part 108, a new section for Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Wiley Rein LLP recently outlined the recommendations, which include, among other recommendations, taking a risk-based approach toward regulation, allowing automated avoidance tools, developing a new BVLOS-rated remote pilot license, establishing a process for certifying UAS for beyond visual line of sight operation, and allowing third-parties to participate in these devices’ operation. A more detailed analysis is available from Unmanned Airspace.

The trade group Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International welcomed the report, noting that routine use of UAS beyond visual line of sight is important to number of industry sectors, including infrastructure inspection, which could include broadcast towers.

The FAA first approved on a limited basis beyond visual line of sight operations in early 2021. The rulemaking committee for this issue was established in June 2021, and its report was originally expected in November.

The next step for the FAA will be to advance a rulemaking process to update the regulatory framework.