My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: FAA's Regulations for Drones - How UAS Benefit American Economy despite Restrictive FAA Regulations by 2016

Sunday, February 15, 2015

FAA's Regulations for Drones - How UAS Benefit American Economy despite Restrictive FAA Regulations by 2016

“We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules. We want to maintain today's outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta commenting on the release of Regulations for the UAS on Sunday February 15th 2015

That's one small step for Drones; one giant leap for Commercial Drone usage in the US of A not that Regulations for Drones have finally come from the FAA as noted in the article “The FAA just took a huge step towards legalizing commercial Drone flights”, published February 15, 2015 10:55 am By Ben Popper, The Verge.

The FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) has released it's much anticipated proposed regulations for the commercial use of Drones as reported in the article “FAA sets weight, speed and altitude limits for commercial Drones in proposed regulations”, published February 15, 2015, by Jason Hahn, DigitalTrends and “FAA Takes A Huge Step Toward Allowing Drone Flights In America”, published 2/15/2015  by Gregory S. McNeal, Forbes.

These rules, released Sunday February 15th 2015, can be viewed on the FAA's website in their FAA Press Release entitled Press Release – DOT and FAA Propose New Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems webpage.

According to this Press Release, there will be a sixty (60) day window for Americans and interested parties within the Drone Community to make comments on aspects of the FAA's Proposed Drone Regulation. Once the FAA Drone Regulations have passed muster, the FAA's Proposed Drone Regulation will come on stream in September 2015.

But all indications are that this is beginning to look more like 2016. Worse, Amazon may not get what they wish and when they wish it to happen, as the Devil is in the details.

FAA's Regulations for Drones - How Drones will benefit the American Economy

In their Proposal documents, Drones are not called UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) but UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems), which technically covers all types of Drones. They have a few uses, with CNET’s Donald Bell listing the top five (5) in this video.

The FAA Regulations as it relates to the Drones themselves are laid out in bullet-point in the article “FAA Takes A Huge Step Toward Allowing Drone Flights In America”, published 2/15/2015 by Gregory S. McNeal, Forbes:

1.      UAS must weigh less than 24.95 kg (55 lb )
2.      UAS operator or visual observer must maintain visual line-of-sight with the aircraft without visual-enhancement devices i.e. Cameras
3.      UAS cannot find over people not involved in the operation
4.      UAS can only be operated in daylight hours
5.      UAS can only fly at a maximum speed of 160.94Km/h (100 mph)
6.      UAS are limited to an altitude of 152.4 m (500") above ground level

The FAA also requires that the Operator of the UAS also abide by certain specific Guidelines:

1.      UAS Operators can be at least 17 years old
2.      UAS Operators have to pass an initial Aeronautical knowledge test at a FAA-approved testing center
3.      UAS Operators that pass would be vetted by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration)
4.      UAS Operators that pass muster would then obtain a FAA Drone operator certificate
5.      UAS Operators must be tested once every two (2) years to ensure continued knowledge of Drones and Aeronautical knowledge
6.      UAS Operators must surrender their Drones for immediate inspection upon request from the FAA is so deemed necessary

Good to note that the FAA made a distinction between Model aircraft and Micro-Drones, Micro-Drones being UAS weighing under 4.4lb (2.05 kg). Of course, freeboating, which the FAA refers to as “Careless or reckless operations”, is not allowed.

FAA is clearly outmanned - Regulations to be implemented by latest 2016

There are more details, but this is the US Government Agency we're talking about, the same US Government body that hasn't even finished research into Drones and the best regulations as it relates to aircraft as noted in my blog article entitled “FAA ok’s Drones for Hobbyist – Study to determine Commercial Drone Risk as Amazon, UPS and FedEx Drones get the Kibosh until 2015”.

They've instead resorted to granting special permission to Drone Contractors on a case-by-case basis. Currently, as of Tuesday February 3rd 2015, only twenty four (24) contractors have gotten special permission to use Drones for Commercial Purposes as stated in my blog article entitled “FAA approves more Drone Contractors – How to use Drones for Journalism in Jamaica the coming Trend after smartphones in 2017

The difficulties are clear.

It's way too easy to purchase a Drone for US$500 at the high end to as low as US$265 for a Drone like the Zano mini-Drone as noted in my MICO Wars Blog article entitled “US$265 Zano mini-Drone – Your personal Paparazzi shooting Videos and taking Selfies” 

The FAA are totally outmanned and requires more personnel to properly regulate the usage of Drones for the Safety of Airlines as well as people. In fact, more testing is needed to see if Drones can be reliably guided out-of-sight or even flow autonomously.

This is the premise behind the Google X Labs Project Wing Drones that can fly autonomously to a pre-set GPS Location as noted in my blog article entitled “Google X Labs Project Wing - How to own a Global Satellite based Semi-Autonomous VTOL Drone Delivery Service”.

However, the FAA's Regulations are really more like Restrictions to such players as Amazon and even UPS and FedEx who have plans for fleets of Drones to handle packages between their various Package Distribution Centers as noted in my blog article entitled “UPS and FedEx developing their Own Delivery Drones to compete with Amazon PrimeAir - Premium Rush Package Delivery Drones herald the coming of Google's Personal Androids that are Almost Human”.

Amazon Prime Air Grounded - Restrictive FAA Regulations make Commercial Operation impossible

If you've been following my blog, Amazon has had plans for Amazon Prime Air since December 2013 as stated in my blog article entitled “Amazon plans to launch Amazon PrimeAir, their 30 minute Drone Package Delivery Service for Amazon Prime users - Playing Catch-up as Mailpak launches DealBug in Jamaica” .

These latest pronouncements from the FAA are more like a setback than progress, delaying those 70,000 jobs, US$100,000 per year paychecks and a US$13.6 billion market for Drone Pilots for Drone Operators as noted in my blog article entitled “FAA to allow Commercial Drones in 2015 - US$100,000 per year for 100,000 Drone Pilot jobs for the next five years

For one, the restrictions in airspeed means that they'll be unable to achieve their mandate to deliver items in less than thirty minutes as noted in the article “Amazon won't be able to fly its delivery Drones under the FAA's proposed Drone rules”, published 15.05.2015 by MAYA KOSOFF, Business Insider and “FAA offers framework to legalize commercial -- but not delivery – Drones”, published February 15, 2015 9:49 AM PST by Ben Fox Rubin, CNET News.

Additionally, the UAS operators has to maintain line-of-sight WITHOUT the use of Telescopes, binoculars or any optical enhancements, basically limiting flights to little more than 100 m away!

Finally, the weight restrictions as laid out in the FAA Regulations means that the Amazon PrimeAir Drones cannot carry anything heavier than a bottle of Soda, as their plan to deliver 5Kg packages has clearly hit a roadblock.

To quote Amazon's vice president of Global Public Policy, Paul Misener: “The FAA’s proposed rules for small UAS could take one or two years to be adopted and, based on the proposal, even then those rules wouldn’t allow Prime Air to operate in the United States. The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers. We are committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need.”

Head of Regulatory Affairs at Airware Jesse Kallman, concurs, as the severity of these restrictions total caught them off guard quote: “The rule is still restrictive in the sense that it prevents [beyond line of sight] operations. This is not unexpected. They state the technology is not available, but indeed it is, and is being used safely in Europe today”.

So with the Public consultations coming, expect to be more like 2016 as noted in the article “FAA will miss deadline to integrate Drones in U.S. skies, report says”, published June 30, 2014 By Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post.

Meanwhile Developing World countries like Jamaica will push ahead with regulations and Research into Drones and their usefulness in everything from Agriculture to Journalism. 

Here’s the link:

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