The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to amend its rules to allow operations of small unmanned aircraft over people in certain conditions and operations of small UAS at night without obtaining a waiver. It would also require remote pilots in command to present their remote pilot in command certificate as well as identification to certain Federal, State, or local officials, upon request, and proposes to amend the knowledge testing requirements in the rules that apply to small UAS operations to require training every 24 calendar months. Comments are requested by April 15, 2019.
According to text filed in the Federal Registry (see below) on 13 February:
“This proposal would expand the activities permitted under part 107 to allow operations over people and at night under certain conditions….this proposal is technologically neutral, with the understanding that technology and applications will evolve in the time between the publication of this proposal and the final rule, and beyond. As a result, this proposal incorporates performance-based requirements to achieve the agency’s safety objectives while simultaneously encouraging the development of solutions in this dynamic environment The applicable conditions vary depending on the level of risk the small UAS operations present to people on the ground.
The FAA proposes three categories of permissible operations over people based on the risk of injury they present:
- Category 1 – The FAA determined that small unmanned aircraft weighing less than 0.55 pounds pose a low risk of injury when operating over people. Accordingly, Category 1 is simple and straightforward: Operators would be able to fly small unmanned aircraft weighing 0.55 pounds or less over people.
- Category 2 would provide flexibility for operators who wish to conduct operations over people using unmanned aircraft that weigh more than 0.55 pounds. Unlike Category 1, Category 2 is not solely weight-based. The FAA proposes a set of performance-based requirements that would allow a small unmanned aircraft to operate over people if the manufacturer can demonstrate that, if the unmanned aircraft crashed into a person, the resulting injury would be below a certain severity threshold.
- Category 3 allows for a higher injury threshold than Category 2, but that limits an individual’s exposure to the risk of injury through operational limitations. The requirements specific to Category 3 would have three parts. The first part would require a small unmanned aircraft to be designed, upon impact with a person, not to result in an injury as severe as the injury that would result from a transfer of 25 ft-lbs of kinetic energy from a rigid object. The second part is that the unmanned aircraft would not have exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin. Third, as with Category 2, no small UAS could be operated over people if it has an FAA-identified a safety defect. Category 3 is distinct, however, because the safety defect would be one that presents more than a low probability of causing a fatality when operating over people.
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