The Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA’s”) recently established rules to allow the commercial operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS”) – more commonly known as “drones” – took effect on Monday, August 29, 2016. We previously wrote about these rules (and the opportunities and risks they present for broadcasters) here and here. For those eager to get their newsgathering drones off the ground, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Certification. Under the new rule, all operations must be conducted by, or under the supervision of, a person who holds a “remote pilot certificate.” The least resource-intensive way to achieve this certification is for licensed pilots (with up-to-date flight reviews) to take a free online training course. Novice flyers without a pilot’s license are required to pass an aeronautical knowledge test and also meet certain age and security clearance requirements. Luckily, there are resources available (here and here) to usher you through the process.
Registration and Reporting. All drones used for commercial purposes (such as newsgathering) must be registered and marked. And, operators have a duty to report any accidents.
Waiver. If you want to conduct drones operations outside the scope of the rules (e.g., beyond visual line of sight, flights over people), you may request a waiver via the FAA’s new online portal. Both the FAA and the Department of Transportation have released guidance on the new process, and we are available to answer any questions you have along the way. Waivers will not be granted automatically and processing time will vary depending on the complexity of the request. Parties are advised to submit requests at least 90 days in advance of flight.
State and Local Laws. Many states and localities have adopted laws to restrict drone operations. These are particularly relevant to broadcasters when practicing for newsgathering events. (That is, when broadcasters are not necessarily exercising their First Amendment rights.) So, be sure to check out the local landscape.
Finally, keep checking back here as we monitor the continuing evolution of the drone rules and regulations broadcasters need to know.