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Media Pleased with new FAA Direction for Commercial UAS rules.

The FAA on Feb. 15 released proposed rules covering the commercial use of small drones weighing less than 55 pounds. And while the proposed regs — covering everything from operator certification to identifying markings — are not as restrictive as media drone experts worried they might be — there are still plenty of concerns.

By Phil Kurz ---TVNewsCheck, February 19, 2015 11:23 AM EST

The Federal Aviation Administration's proposed rules covering commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems, more commonly known as drones, have been welcomed by the news media that want to use them as aerial news gathering platforms, but not without some grumbling.

Some involved in putting drones to work for the media see certain of the proposed rules as too restrictive and worry that the process of writing the final rules will drag on too long.

"We are pleased to see that the FAA has released the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, but we continue to be concerned about the slow pace of getting news drones off the ground,” says Chuck Tobin, the Washington attorney who represents the Drone Alliance, a coalition of 14 media organizations, including Capitol Broadcasting, Gannett, NBCUniversal, Scripps, Sinclair and Univision.

“It’s going to be two or three years before we get to a final rulemaking,” Tobin says. “That has us really concerned."

The proposed rules, released Feb. 15, address the commercial use of small drones weighing less than 55 pounds, covering everything from operator certification to identifying markings. Newsgathering is just one of many potential uses for the drones.

Under the proposed rules, drones must remain within the “visual line of sight” of an operator without the assistance of binoculars or some other visual magnifier, other than corrective lenses.

They may be flown only during daylight hours and may not be flown over anyone other than the people directly involved in their operation. The proposed rules permit a maximum speed of 100 mph and a top altitude of 500 feet.

The rules also would require an operator to be at least 17 years old, pass a test on aeronautical knowledge at a testing center approved by the FAA, undergo a background check by the Transportation Security Administration and obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating.

The notice also proposes a class of commercial micro drones weighing less than 4.4 pounds, but they are restricted to remote areas.

“This [NPRM] is a lot more flexible and provides for a lot more freedom than we had been led to believe was going to happen,” says Matt Waite, founder of the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “For example, requiring a pilot’s license and an airworthiness certificate would have been really big problems to overcome.”


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