New Drone Rules You Probably Missed — Part 1

  • Category 1 eligible small unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 0.55, including everything on board or otherwise attached, and contain no exposed rotating parts that would lacerate human skin. No FAA-accepted Means of Compliance (MOC) or Declaration of Compliance (DOC) required.
  • Category 2 eligible small unmanned aircraft must not cause injury to a human being that is equivalent to or greater than the severity of injury caused by a transfer of 11 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact from a rigid object, does not contain any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin upon impact with a human being, and does not contain any safety defects. Requires FAA-accepted means of compliance and FAA-accepted declaration of compliance.
  • Category 3 eligible small unmanned aircraft must not cause injury to a human being that is equivalent to or greater than the severity of injury caused by a transfer of 25 foot-pounds of kinetic energy upon impact from a rigid object, does not contain any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin upon impact with a human being, and does not contain any safety defects. Requires FAA-accepted means of compliance and FAA-accepted declaration of compliance.
  • Category 4 eligible small unmanned aircraft must have an airworthiness certificate issued under Part 21 of FAA regulations. Must be operated in accordance with the operating limitations specified in the approved Flight Manual or as otherwise specified by the Administrator. The operating limitations must not prohibit operations over human beings. Must have maintenance, preventive maintenance, alterations, or inspections performed in accordance with specific requirements in the final rule.”

Determining Your Aircraft Category

A drone falling into this category could be any drone over .55 pounds. Measuring kinetic energy is a function of the gravitational influence and the weight of an object. So a small Mavic and large Matrice can both fit into the same category.

Image by Thomas Ehrhardt from Pixabay

Where Does This Leave You?

The calculations show that both a Mavic and a Matrice would fall into a Category 3 UAS. These aircraft would not be able to operate over any open-air assembly of people.

  • The operation is within or over a closed- or restricted-access site and all human beings located within the closed- or restricted-access site must be on notice that a small unmanned aircraft may fly over them
  • The small unmanned aircraft does not maintain sustained flight over any human being unless that human being is directly participating in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft; or located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft.

The Propeller Problem

The FAA also says, “The declaration of compliance establishes the applicant is declaring it has met the applicable injury severity limitations, the exposed rotating parts prohibition, or a combination of these requirements through an FAA-accepted means of compliance.”

Conclusion

The rules for operating as certificated pilots in FAA regulated airspace may be new to UAS pilots, but those who are manned aircraft pilots have had to deal with complex rules and regulations like this from the first day of our flying. None of this should be a surprise to UAS pilots, and these rules are just the tip of what is yet to come.

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Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode

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Dog Rescue Pilot, Firefighter, Debt Coach, and a Nice Guy