Commercial, Regulatory, Safety

FAA Seeking Comments by Apr. 15 on Drone Flights

By Frank Wolfe | April 11, 2019
Send Feedback | @fwolfe18

DJI Phantom 4 drone
(DJI Photo)

Comments are due Apr. 15 on proposed rules by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) governing the safe flight of drones through Unmanned Traffic Management, drone payload restrictions and beyond line of sight flight, and drone flights at night or over populated areas.

While the FAA has received more than 1,300 comments in all, just 84 have concerned drone night flights and flights over people, Chinese drone maker DJI said April 10.

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Brendan Schulman, DJI's vice president of policy and legal affairs, said that drones represent "transformative technology" and that the FAA rules are "necessary."

“Given how vital these rules are for every professional drone pilot in America, it is surprising to see how few comments have been received," he said. "We strongly encourage professional drone operators and fleet operators to read the FAA’s proposals and submit their perspectives on how to ensure drones can handle expanded responsibilities safely.”

DJI said that it will submit formal comments to the FAA by the April 15 deadline.

In a set of observations on the proposed rules, DJI said it "supports the use of UTM to enable advanced operations that cannot be safely conducted because they are outside the pilot's visual line of sight or involve autonomous or multiple-aircraft operations."

"On the other hand, UTM is not well-suited to addressing basic safety or security needs because those are most directly within the judgment of the pilot in command," DJI said. "For visual line of sight operations, UTM would impose an outsized cost and complexity relative to its benefit. Drones operated by those who pose security challenges are highly unlikely to participate in a UTM 'system' by signing or establishing account credentials. The costs of UTM are not well known and may be so high as to pose an impediment to operations for small businesses, educators, cost-conscious government agencies, and recreational operators."

Drone tracking has become a top issue globally since drones shut down operations at Gatwick International Airport near London last December. Industry observers believe that the FAA will eventually require all aircraft flying in the National Airspace System, including hobby drones and light sport aircraft, to be equipped with a Remote ID system.

In February, the FAA began requiring owners of small unmanned aircraft to display "the unique identifier assigned by the FAA upon completion of the registration process (registration number) on an external surface of the aircraft," and said "small unmanned aircraft owners are no longer permitted to enclose the FAA-issued registration number in a compartment."

In a 2015 rule, the FAA initially permitted such small unmanned aircraft to have their registration numbers concealed inside the aircraft as a concession to the television and motion picture industry, which did not want markings to show in theatrical and television productions, and hobbyists who wanted to preserve the authenticity of their model aircraft.

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