FAA Finalizes Rule for Non-Recreational Small UAS Operations
June 21, 2016

Today the FAA joined the Department of Transportation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in announcing the release of the long-awaited Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rule (Small UAS Rule), which will be codified as FAR Part 107. The rule, which will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, will allow widespread commercial operations of UAS weighing less than 55 pounds, with certain restrictions. AAAE has been very closely monitoring the progress of this regulation since the initial Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) was released in early 2015 and issued comments just over a year ago. Today's announcement marks a major step in the goal of integrating UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS), and will have a major impact on both the aviation community and the general public.  

There are a number of key provisions that have changed since the release of the NPRM, with one directly affecting airports. This major change from current policy will NO LONGER require UAS Operators to notify, or in any way coordinate with, the airport operator when operating near airports within class G airspace. However, operators would need to obtain ATO permission prior to operating in any other class of airspace. Over the next few weeks, our UAS Working Group and other industry partners will fully analyze the potential impact of the rule and will be sure to keep members informed as we begin implementing this transformative piece of regulation. 
 Key provisions of the rule include: 

  • UAS operating under Part 107 must weight less than 55 lbs;
  • Part 107 operators will be required to obtain a remote pilots' certificate, pass an aeronautical knowledge test at a FAA-approved testing center and will be vetted by TSA through a background check;
  • Current Part 61 pilots' certificate holders must obtain an UAS rating by passing an online knowledge test;
  • Altitude will be restricted to 400 ft. AGL - a key change from the NPRM;
  • Speed is restricted to less than 100 mph;
  • Only daylight, and twilight operations with proper lighting, will be permitted;
  • Operations must be within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the operator;
  • Minimum operator age under Part 107 will be 16 years of age;
  • Operations over unprotected or non-participating individuals are not permitted, but will be addressed later as the Micro UAS ARC recommendations are implemented;
  • Accidents causing more than $500 worth of damage must be reported within 10 days;
  • External loads will be allowed, as long as they are secure;
  • Transportation of property and goods for sale will be permitted, as long as the total weight is less than 55 lbs and the operations are within VLOS; and
  • An airworthiness certifications is not required.

In addition to publication of the final Small UAS Rule, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also announced a call for private sector and non-profit organizations to share commitments for new and positive applications of UAS technology or business practices, including steps to advance research and development, protect privacy or enhance public safety. The White House also announced that they will be hosting an industry outreach day later this year to discuss how the industry can work together to promote these goals while maintaining safety and security.

As a leader in the UAS policy field, AAAE plans to continue our commitment to engage members, work with industry partners, pursue technological advances and do whatever else is necessary to accelerate the safe integration of UAS technology into the National Airspace System.

If you have any questions regarding the Small UAS Rule, please refer to the full Small UAS Rule text, the FAA Small UAS Rule Summary, the FAA Fact Sheet, or contact Justin Towles of the AAAE staff.