FAA finalizes drone use rules; NRCA commends

by Brianna Crandall — July 13, 2016 — The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently finalized the first operational rules (Part 107) for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or “drones”), opening pathways towards fully integrating UASs into the nation’s airspace. These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives, says the FAA. See the NRCA response below.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx commented:

We are part of a new era in aviation, and the potential for unmanned aircraft will make it safer and easier to do certain jobs, gather information, and deploy disaster relief. We look forward to working with the aviation community to support innovation, while maintaining our standards as the safest and most complex airspace in the world.

The new Part 107 rule, which takes effect in late August, offers safety regulations for unmanned aircraft drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations. The rule’s provisions are designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground.

The regulations require pilots to keep an unmanned aircraft within visual line of sight. Operations are allowed during daylight and during twilight if the drone has anti-collision lights. The new regulations also address height and speed restrictions and other operational limits, such as prohibiting flights over unprotected people on the ground who are not directly participating in the UAS operation.

The FAA is offering a process to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. Under the final rule, the person actually flying a drone must be at least 16 years old and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate. Part 107 will not apply to model aircraft, which must be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes.

Although the new drone use rule does not specifically deal with privacy issues, and the FAA does not regulate how UASs gather data on people or property, the FAA is acting to address privacy considerations in this area. The FAA strongly encourages all UAS pilots to check local and state laws before gathering information through remote sensing technology or photography, and the agency will provide all drone users with recommended privacy guidelines as part of the UAS registration process and through the FAA’s B4UFly mobile app.

For more information on unmanned aircraft systems and the Part 107 rules, visit the FAA Web site.

William Good, CEO of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), issued the following statement in response to the FAA announcement:

The NRCA believes the new rules issued by the Federal Aviation Administration on the commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, will provide significant new opportunities for the use of such aircraft in the roofing industry.

The new rule, which goes into effect in late August, will allow people with a “remote pilot in command” certification to operate drones for commercial and educational purposes, provided the drones weigh less than 55 pounds, do not exceed 100 miles per hour groundspeed, and do not fly more than 400 feet above ground level.

NRCA believes the final rule is a reasonable one and is especially pleased that the FAA listened to some of the concerns NRCA expressed during the rulemaking process. The FAA rule contains a provision for waivers to some of its rules that, for example, should allow drones to be flown at night in situations where they do not pose any danger.

NRCA believes drone use can be of enormous benefit to the roofing industry over time. Drones can be used to evaluate existing roofs, help prepare estimates for new roofs, conduct thermal imaging, and even measure reflectivity performance. And the use of drones will mean fewer people will need to be exposed to rooftop hazards to conduct routine inspections.