The DOT and FAA released their proposed New Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems on Sunday, a first step in specific regulation for UASs or drones. The proposed rules still need to experience a period of public commentary before being enacted, after which they will receive further refinement by the Department of Transportation, the Office of Management and Budget before being finalized. The FAA remains behind its congressionally-mandated deadline of September 2015 for full integration of UASs within the national airspace.
Requirements suggested by the rules includes the operator maintaining visual line-of-sight (VLOS), a maximum airspeed of 100 mph, and a maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level. The rules would apply to small UAS (under 55 pounds), but also included a discussion on the possibility of separate, more flexible rules for “micro” UAS under 4.4 pounds.
Under the current regulations, exemptions are required for any commercial use of drones as they fall under the category of aircraft. If the rules pass, special exemptions for commercial drone use will no longer be necessary. However, the use of automated drones for delivery will remain illegal as VLOS is still required, and assisted vision technology can’t be used as a replacement.
Under those regulations, Amazon’s 30-minute drone delivery initiative, Amazon Prime Air, won’t be making deliveries in the U.S. anytime soon. In December of 2014, executives at Amazon stated they will take Prime Air overseas for testing due to the regulatory environment in United States. In response to the rules proposal, Paul Misener, Amazon’s Vice President for Global Public Policy stated, “We are committed to realizing our vision for Prime Air and are prepared to deploy where we have the regulatory support we need.”