updated 02:36 pm EDT, Mon May 19, 2014
Ahead of unmanned aircraft law, a decision could come as early as November
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering a faster process for allowing the use of small, "low risk" drones for use in commercial applications. Requests for drone use have come to the agency for various business endeavors, such as commercial inspections and filmmaking in recent history -- causing the agency to consider short-term approvals before unmanned flight regulation is more formally addressed in the future.
In a report from Bloomberg, the FAA has yet to issue any approvals to such companies, but it is looking at rules that would allow the operation of unmanned drones by November. The drones will have to weigh under 55 pounds to be considered, and be operated in a way that is considered low-risk to humans and structures. As it stands, such flights are currently not allowed by law. However, that hasn't stopped them from taking place for testing purposes.
The FAA is still looking for a way to speed up the process of granting licensing to these commercial flights, but still has to hammer out a process to do so. Ahead of drafted overall rules and regulations for an unmanned flight, the FAA is expected to make use of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, passed in 2012, to allow the limited use. Speaking at sUSB Expo this month, Jim Williams of the FAA addressed some of the upcoming steps for creating a solution under the guidelines of the legislation.
"Work is underway to implement the provisions of section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. This will allow us to move forward with incremental UAS integration," said Williams during a presentation at the expo. "This section of the act can only be applied to specific, limited, low-risk uses in advance of the small UAS rule. I stress the word may, as we are still evaluating this option and developing our internal processes. If we are going to leverage section 333 for those low-risk operations, there will be economic benefits as we begin to address pent-up demand for commercial UAS operations."
With companies like Amazon and other delivery services stepping into the drone field, it will become increasingly important for the future of the technology that citizens and business alike are able to use it. Hobbyists and other amateur operators may not benefit from a licensing standard, much like model rocketry has seen for high-altitude launches. However, having such laws in place can help address any legal issues and injuries ahead of time, especially as safety is a top consideration to the FAA.
Full footage of William's presentation from sUAS News can be seen below.