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FAA: Unmanned Aerial Systems in National Airspace

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UAS - Unmanned Aerial System

By Dr. Charles Russo, American Military University and Anthony Galante, Unmanned Safety Institute

This January, a personal unmanned aerial system (UAS) crashed on to the White House lawn. While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) intended to bring forward new regulations for the public and commercial use of UAS in 2015, this incident seems to have accelerated the timetable.

On February 15, the FAA released proposed rule changes. The key components of the new proposed rules include safety and reasonableness for the operators, the community, and the UAS manufacturers.

Currently, to fly any UAS , permission from the FAA can be granted after the public safety agency applies for a certificate of authorization (COA). The operator of the UAS is required to possess the flight hours or medical rating of a private pilot’s license. These proposed changes, if approved, should be welcomed by public safety agencies seeking to operate these devices.

According to the new FAA proposal:

  • UAS weighing up to 55 pounds would be allowed to fly within visual line of sight of operators during daylight hours without the need of a COA.
  • The UAS must stay below 500 feet in the air and fly less than 100 miles per hour.
  • Operators who are flying UAS would need to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautics test, and be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The FAA’s statute prohibits the operation of an aircraft unless the aircraft is registered. Pursuant to this statutory prohibition, the proposed rule change would require small unmanned aircraft to be registered with the FAA using the current registration process. In order to register a small unmanned aircraft with the FAA, the aircraft’s owner would have to submit to the FAA an aircraft registration application providing information about the aircraft and contact information for the aircraft owner. This registration would need to be renewed every three years.

It is important to know that the proposed rule changes do not just impact public safety agency operations. The following are examples of possible small UAS operations that could be conducted under this proposed framework:

  • Crop monitoring/inspection
  • Research and development
  • Educational/academic uses
  • Power-line/pipeline inspection in hilly or mountainous terrain
  • Antenna inspections
  • Aiding certain rescue operations such as locating snow avalanche victims
  • Aerial photography
  • Wildlife nesting area evaluations

Read the full article at In Public Safety

About the Authors
Dr. Chuck Russo is the Program Director of Criminal Justice at American Military University (AMU). He began his career in law enforcement in 1987 in central Florida and was involved all areas of patrol, training, special operations and investigations before retiring from law enforcement in 2013. Dr. Russo continues to design and instruct courses, as well as act as a consultant for education, government and industry throughout the United States and the Middle East. His recent research and presentations focus on emerging technology and law enforcement applications, in addition to post-traumatic stress and online learning.

Professor Anthony Galante is a former SWAT officer and current law enforcement officer with more than 10 years of service. He holds a Masters of Aeronautical Science degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Professor Galante teaches at three major universities and is the lead instructor at the Unmanned Safety Institute, which is a strategy and technology firm delivering consulting, training, and analytics for clients in commercial industries and law enforcement seeking to integrate UAS into their daily operations. Offices are located in Maitland, FL and Washington, D.C.

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