New Drone Safety Regulations Proposed; Prohibits Commercial Flights in Crowded Areas

First Posted: Apr 08, 2016 06:56 AM EDT

Drones and other small commercial devices flying over crowds were the main concerns of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) panel on April 6, Wednesday. The panel unveiled the anticipated safety recommendations which set the stage for regulations on the issue.

The Micro Unmanned Aircraft Systems Aviation Rulemaking Committee suggested that micro drones which weighed less than half a pound could fly over crowds with limited restrictions because they had a less chance of causing major injuries. Drones over half a pound but under 55 pounds would be required to fly at least 20 feet above individual's heads and maintain at least 10 feet distance from them laterally. Unmanned aircraft system operators would also need to verify if products posed a less than 1 percent possibility of injury, based on results of dummy crash tests.

Heavier standards would apply over restricted areas, such as a crowded city, movie sets, construction sites and agriculture fields. However, the committee suggested that drone operators could be granted an exemption should they develop a risk plan, according to a feature from The Verge.

The panel also recommended lessons for operators of smaller crafts be made accessible, so users could receive education about operation through an online test. However, they expressed concern that people would not agree in going to FAA test sites or submitting to Transportation Security Administration background checks.

Nancy Egan, committee co-chair and general counsel firm 3D Robotics, stated that putting burdens on individuals who were flying the smallest category could be a deterrent from safety. She claimed that making it easier for operators to get the education that they need will enhance safety. The FAA stated that it was reviewing the report from the committee, which included industry stakeholders and other aviation experts. 

The drone recommendations in the report could be the basis for the forthcoming regulations, according to a feature from USA Today. The FAA had prohibited most commercial drone flights over populated areas until further notice. 

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