While Federal laws and regulations are still being hammered out, here are some guidelines from the FlySafe Course, a rigorous certification workshop for commercial and hobby operators of unmanned aerial vehicles. (Source: http://flysafetraining.org/the-guidelines/ )
FLYSAFE recommends certified pilots maintain current flight logs and log a minimum of 4 flights at least 5 minutes each per month to maintain proficiency. This may not be accomplished by simulator.
Operators must at all times have their flight safety checklists present for all official flying. The FLYSAFE flight checklists include preflight, flight, and post flight information. This is acceptable in paper or digital form.
To maintain FLYSAFE current, you must always have a general liability insurance that covers any incidents including property and personal. No less than a $1 million dollar umbrella policy is acceptable. If you are flying for someone, you must list them as additionally insured.
Flying above 400 feet AGL is prohibited at all times. UAV Aerial Photography has its uses primarily as low-range flight. If you must fly above 400 feet AGL, use full sized aircraft to accomplish the altitude. It is recommended for many reasons that you stay below 300 feet AGL, however is required you always stay below 400 feet AGL.
You may not fly over 100′ AGL within 3 miles of an airport without special pre-arranged communication with that airport's operator. In no instance may you fly over, around, or off the ends of any runway. If you must fly at an airport, it must be pre-arranged, and written permissions must be given with specific times and locations as well as altitudes. You must also be equipped with a transceiver to monitor the air traffic frequencies of that airport. It is preferred to have a liaison from the airport supervising. If flying in close proximity to airport guidelines, you must have in your possession a sectional chart outlining the information pertaining to that airports proximity to your shoot location.
First Person View (FPV) is a FLYSAFE approved method of flight with a spotter. The pilot may use the flight monitor (FPV) as reference but there must be a trained designated spotter watching the aircraft via line-of-sight at all times with no exceptions. The most suitable and most encouraged method of flight is direct line of sight. This requires the pilot to fly the aircraft by looking at it directly, unassisted except for corrective eyewear.
Flying while Intoxicated
You may not in any instance act as pilot in command under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Blood alcohol maximum for flight is 0.00.
Flying Over People
(Closed Production Set)
People you fly over or near, must be fully aware of it in advance and must sign an individual release of liability with the understanding that their activities and involvement may result in injury or even death. *Extreme caution must be taken at all times.
Flying over or near people or crowds is to be avoided whenever possible and only permitted in the following circumstances:
1. Client understands and approves of all activities.
2. You have current liability insurance for personal and property damage listing the client as additionally insured.
3. All participants are aware of the activities and have signed a liability release form.
4. You are operating at your own discretion and accept all responsibilities that pertain to your activities
*Extreme caution must be taken at all times.
Flying Over Roadways
It is strongly discouraged to fly over active roadways. When possible, use closed roadways. Flying over roadways is permitted at the pilot's discretion but should never interfere with normal roadway activity (landing on a road, stopping traffic, chasing vehicles, distracting drivers,, etc...). Hovering directly over a roadway is strictly prohibited at all times.
Use for Surveillance or Spying
It is damaging to the reputation of UAV Aerial Photography to use your abilities for surveillance or spying. That is why FLYSAFE prohibits your flight for this purpose. The only exception to this is if you are assisting police, or public safety for official business and remain FLYSAFE compliant on all other flight conditions.
Flying At Night
You may fly at night only if you have a clear understanding of surrounding obstacles in advance as well as suitable exterior aircraft orientation lighting. It is required that all aircraft flying at night must be marked at a minimum with RED lighting on the rear and BLUE lighting on the front. You must also land with (2:00) minutes of reserve power.
Takeoff and Landing Zones
To remain compliant you must choose areas where safe takeoff and landings may be conducted. This is defined by a space no smaller than (10) feet by (10) feet and clear of overhead and lateral obstructions. The Pilot/Remote Control Operator in Command shall check the location to determine if there are any potential radio frequencies or electrical transmissions that could interfere with or affect the safe operation of the aircraft. The aircraft must be checked for proper balance before each flight or after any alterations to the aircraft such as new camera or lens alteration. The area should be cleared of debris. Never, under any circumstance, throw anything such as grip tape, clothing, paper, etc. around the aircraft, whether running or not. Loose clothing, trash, or anything that may hinder the operation of the aircraft, shall be cleared. If there are people in the area of takeoff they are to be made aware, and asked to remain clear of the 10' x 10' area.
For the past two legislation sessions, the Georgia House of Representatives has discussed a bill proposal that would put certain laws in place to regulate the usage of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or better known as drones.
HB 5, proposed by State Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, both in 2014 and 2015, would have made it unlawful for anyone operating a UAV to capture certain images and then display or disclose those images. The intent was to prevent people from using their drones as a surveillance device on privately owned property or an individual
Typically, UAVs have been used for a variety of situations, including law enforcement operations, land surveillance, wildlife tracking, search and rescue operations, disaster response, border patrol and photography, and at least 20 states have laws on the books to define UAVs and how they can be used for public, private and business needs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Geisinger has been trying to make Georgia the 21st state to follow this trend, but, like last year, his bill didn’t make it to a House vote. Geisinger wasn’t available for comment for this story.
One reason for Geisinger’s urgency may be because there aren’t any federal laws related to UAV usage. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has certain guidelines and requirements for usage based on the purpose.
“That’s where the confusion may happen because the FAA has established policies to operate in national airspace,” says Rich Hanson director of public relations and government affairs for the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). However, he adds, “There are no federal laws.”
To help educate people on the rules surrounding UAVs, Hanson’s AMA organization, the Small UAV Coalition and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International founded the “Know Before You Fly” campaign in partnership with the FAA in December.
The whole purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness for people to know what they can and cannot do with their UAVs, says Hanson. The campaign also attempts to get manufactures to include the official FAA regulations with every UAV sold.
So far, at least 15 manufactures, including the two largest recreational distributors of UAVs, Horizon Hobby and Hobbico, have agreed to include the additional literature with their products, says Hanson.
“We’ve been successful,” he said.
One of the current FAA policies includes needing a Certificate of Authorization (COA) or a Special Airworthiness Certificate-Experimental in order to operate a UAV. These certifications will specify the intended activity and could have certain provisions or limitations imposed by the FAA, but only apply to people using UAVs for a business or public entity.
Hobbyists who use UAVs are encouraged to follow the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) model aircraft standards from 1981. These operating standards suggest flyers “exercise good judgment” when using UAVs, don’t fly near heavily populated areas like a school or hospital, don’t fly higher than 400 feet above the ground and to notify an airport operator when flying within three miles of an airport.
While no criminal charges can be brought against a person who violates these guidelines, the FAA can and has pressed civil charges, says Hanson.
In 2012, the FAA fined Raphel Pirker $10,000 because they deemed he flew his drone “in a careless or reckless manner” after Pirker allegedly flew his UAV in the “vicinity” of the University of Virginia in 2011 and received compensation for pictures and video he took of the campus.
Pirker initially won the case in March 2014 after a judge ruled that his UAV was a model aircraft, and thus the FAA regulations didn’t apply. However, the FAA appealed the ruling, and in November, the National Transportation Safety Board overturned the decision.
The FAA and Pirker settled the case with Pirker having to pay the FAA $1,100.
In February, the FAA released a proposal for new regulations for the non-recreational operations of small UAVs and micro UAVs, traditionally fewer than 55 and 4.4 pounds. The proposed rule would require an operator, who has to be at least 17 years old, to maintain line of sight with the small UAV and limit flights to daylight operations.
Other proposed regulations include:
· A small UAS operator must always see and avoid manned aircraft. If there is a risk of collision, the UAS operator must be the first to maneuver away.
· The operator must discontinue the flight when continuing would pose a hazard to other aircraft, people or property.
· A small UAS operator must assess weather conditions, airspace restrictions and the location of people to lessen risks if he or she loses control of the UAS.
· A small UAS may not fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.
· Flights should be limited to 500 feet altitude and no faster than 100 mph.
· Operators must stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace areas, and obey any FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs).
“We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a press release. “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.”
The FAA is seeking public comment on these guidelines and the public until April 24 to voice their opinion, according to Hanson.
“The new regulations would address 80 to 90 percent of what’s occurring today,” he said.
While the FAA is working to make regulations for the UAVs, any federal law is still years away, says Hanson, but momentum to get something done picked up steam when a UAV landed on the White House lawn in January.
“That drew a lot attention (in Congress),” Hanson said.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, plans to introduce a new bill that she hopes will strengthen drone safety laws to protect U.S. airline passengers and U.S. airspace. She also wants the FAA to increase enforcement of existing regulations.
A press release from December says states that Feinstein received a letter from the FAA indicating there were at least 190 “drone safety incidents” reported last year, including 24 near mid-air collisions.
“I recognize the proliferation of highly-capable, inexpensive drones operated by untrained individuals is a new challenge to your mission,” Feinstein said in a press release. “But the FAA is responsible for the safety of the airspace, and it must aggressively confront this challenge now, before an airliner is brought down.”
New language to address some of the security and privacy concerns the U.S. Congress has with UAVs could be written into the FAA’s 2015 reauthorization bill until federal laws can be implemented, says Hanson.
The FAA Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2012 is set to expire this at the end of the 2015 federal fiscal year, Sept. 30.