Window to the Law: FAA Issues Drone Rules

Learn about the Federal Aviation Administration's new "Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule," taking effect on August 29, 2016.

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Window to the Law: FAA Issues Drone Rules: Transcript

Welcome to this segment of "Window to the Law".

I am Lesley Walker, Senior Counsel with the National Association of REALTORS®.

Today's video is a particularly exciting one, and the skies are about to get a bit busier.

On August 29, 2016, small unmanned aircrafts, or drones as they are commonly referred to, can begin operating in national airspace for commercial purposes, and can do so without first obtaining authorization from the FAA. Real estate professionals around the country will be able to begin using this cutting edge technology for real estate marketing, for purposes to include capturing photographs of properties with unique landscapes or vast acreage, to conduct home inspections, or even to assess property damage.

Let's turn to the new landscape of drone regulation:

First, a major change that will be effectuated under the rule is that a pilot's license is no longer required. Instead, drone users must obtain a "Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating", a much

less expensive and less time-consuming alternative to a traditional pilot's license. To obtain this certificate, a drone user must meet several eligibility requirements, including taking and passing an initial aeronautical knowledge test. In total, the FAA estimates that the cost to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate will be approximately $150.

Second, the Rule includes a visual line of sight requirement, which means that the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the controls must be able to see the drone at all times during operation. This requirement also applies to visual observers if one is used. There are limited exceptions to the visual line of sight requirement where, for example, an operational necessity or emergency requires a brief break in a person's ability to see the small UAS.

Next, the rule limits drone operations to daylight hours only, which means nighttime operations are not permitted under the Rule.

Also, be mindful of where you conduct your operations. The Rule prohibits operations over persons not directly participating in the drone operation, unless the non-participants are located under a covered structure or in a stationary vehicle that would provide reasonable protection in the event of an accident.

The Rule has several other restrictions and requirements, which you should be familiar with before beginning a drone operation. For example, the Rule limits a drone's maximum groundspeed to 100 mph, and allows drones to operate at a maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level, or within a 400-foot radius of a structure.

While these operational requirements must be met, the Rule does provide for a separate certificate of waiver process, which would allow the FAA to authorize deviations from certain, but not all, of the Rule's operational limitations.

So, if you previously obtained a Section 333 exemption to operate drones, you may be wondering what this new rule means for you.

Current Section 333 exemption holders can continue operating a small UAS pursuant to the specific terms and conditions of their exemption through exemption's expiration date OR a Section 333 exemption holder can choose to conduct drone operations in accordance with the new Rule, once the Rule becomes effective.

Beyond the nitty gritty details of the Rule, many people are wondering about privacy concerns related to drone use. While the FAA did not address privacy issues in the Rule, drone users should be familiar with state and local privacy laws, as well as a patchwork of additional state and local laws that may place additional restrictions on drone use in a particular jurisdiction.

Approximately 26 states have enacted laws addressing UAS issues, and an additional six states have adopted resolutions.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration issued a set of voluntary best practices for unmanned aircraft use, which does cover privacy, transparency and accountability issues related to responsible drone use. While these best practices are voluntary, we encourage you to be familiar with these best practices prior to conducting drone operations.

Also, please keep in mind that small UAS must be registered with the FAA. A requirement that did not change with the new Rule.

For answers to commonly asked questions about the new Rule, please check out the FAQs we assembled for you, which are available on REALTOR®.org. Here are some additional resources you can also check out to learn more about this new frontier.

Thank you for joining me today, and have a safe flight.

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