The FAA Is Working to Make Drones a Reality for Us

Note: This post discusses proposed law changes in the United States. If you live outside the US, the laws regarding UAVs will be different for you locally.

As discussed before, the unmanned aviation industry is currently booming and holds fantastic potential for aerial video capture as well as mapping and 3D modeling. The biggest obstacle, however, are the restrictive laws for use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, drones, quadcopters or multirotors) commercially in the United States. Unless you have an exception, it is currently against the law to use UAVs to make money. That means all of those cool YouTube videos you have been seeing are either created by hobbyists, made illegally or filmed in another country. If you really think about the ramifications of a heavy object falling out of the sky and into the windshield of your car, you can begin to see why the FAA has be hesitant to open the regulatory floodgates.

In February, however, the FAA proposed new regulations that would ease the restrictions on the commercial use of UAVs. While the rules are still restrictive and some feel they don’t go far enough to make reasonable UAV use a reality, most agree that they are a step in the right direction.

The proposed regulation would allow you to use a UAV commercially under these conditions:

  • The craft must weight less than 55 pounds
  • It must be flown during daylight hours
  • The aircraft must stay in the line-of-sight of the operator
  • The operator must be certified and registered to fly the vehicle
  • The vehicle must stay below 500 feet

The line-of-sight condition seems to be generating the most grief from the drone world. In a world where real time, high definition footage can be transmitted to your iPad showing what the UAV sees, this seems like an unnecessary regulation. Nevertheless, these conditions would allow operators in many industries (including the construction/engineering/visualization industry) to profitably offer aerial services.

Unfortunately, these regulations won’t take effect for a while- maybe a year or more.

Still, its a step in a direction towards the day when extensive 3D modeling of existing conditions is replaced by video footage or 3D captured objects.