MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After years of waiting, the Federal Aviation Administration is finally proposing news rules for the safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems, otherwise known as drones.

The long anticipated regulations are an attempt to balance flight safety with a rapidly blossoming industry.

Under the proposed regulations, drones would only be allowed to be flown during daylight hours and at a maximum altitude of 500 feet.

But what’s not addressed in this first attempt at federal regulation is the desire by some companies like Amazon to use drones to deliver everything from pizzas to packages.

Many UAS operators were holding their breath, thinking the proposed regulations would be far more restrictive.

“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 said.

The rules being considered should help the drone industry get off the ground.

Radio controlled aircraft have been around for a long time – but the fascination with helicopter-like drones is changing everything.

“The uses of this are endless, and we’re going to see amazing things come out of them,” drone enthusiast Charles Eide explained.

Eide is an early operator of drones for use in his photography and event business and has been outspoken on the need for consistent and safe operations.

Beyond just hobby flying, drones are used for applications such as aerial photography and surveying farm fields. However, many envision drones actually delivering packages to a customer’s door someday.

In order to maintain the nation’s air safety requirements, the FAA is proposing rules governing the airspace that drones will operate in.

Eide likes what he’s seeing in the FAA’s initial plan.

“My biggest surprise was they are not going to require a private pilot license and medical, and going to be much more inclusive,” Eide said.

Eide’s company operates FlySafe, a program that’s already trained over 200 drone pilots.

Under the proposed rules, drones must weigh less than 55 pounds, remain in the line of sight of operators be flown only in daylight, at no higher than 500 feet of altitude.

In addition, all operators will be tested, certified and vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.

“I think the more training courses that the FAA approves, I think it will help quite a bit,” drone retailer Tanner Becken explained

Becken sells drones at Richfield’s Hobby Warehouse. He says rules now give customers more confidence to make a UAS purchase.

“Hopefully, it will get some people in who were kind of scared of the rules or the previous non-rules,” Becken said.

The FAA will consider drone flights beyond line of sight, and what limits are needed.

That will be important for companies like Amazon which has plans to use drones for package deliveries.
But that will require sophisticated GPS technology to program the drone to safely fly itself.

The FAA will establish a 60-day comment period for the public to register opinions followed by an extensive rulemaking and approval process, which could take two or perhaps, three years.

Bill Hudson

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