The FAArecentlyreleasedpro- posedregulationsforthecom- mercial operation of small drones, referred to in the
administration’s summary as small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Carriers
and vendors in the property insurance
industry have long anticipated additional
clarity regarding the utilization of unmanned aircraft. This proposal is a positive step forward for those who have been
in limbo in the research and planning
phase of drone technology.
Here is a summary of the FAA’s proposed
rules as well as insight into their implications for the property insurance industry.
Operators will have to pass a written
exam at an FAA-approved testing center
prior to applying for and receiving an
operator’s certificate. The Transportation Security Administration will screen
applicants, and operators will have to
pass a recurrent knowledge test every 24
months. There are no proposed requirements for training, operating hours or liability insurance.
Most organizations won’t find licensing
UAS operators cost-prohibitive. The to-
tal cost to take the FAA exam and apply
for an operator’s certificate is estimated
at $300. No definitive resources are listed
for knowledge or skills training, meaning
companies will have to develop this inter-
nally or identify external providers.
UAS that are governed by the proposed
rules must weigh less than 55 pounds
(lbs.) and have a maximum speed of 100
miles per hour (mph). Aircraft must be
registered with the FAA and have a visible registration number. Registrations
are estimated to cost less than $50 with
renewal required every three years.
Maintenance and inspections can be performed by the operator.
Nearly all applications within the property insurance industry, including roofing
inspections, can be accomplished with
UAS that satisfy these regulations. For
reference, the highly popular DJI Phantom, which can capture HD video and
photo, weighs roughly three pounds and
has a maximum speed of about 35 mph.
Many advanced UAS with longer flight
times and more advanced sensors will
also comply with hardware requirements.
Best practices include keeping thorough
maintenance and inspection records.
For UAS less than 55 lbs., the operator must maintain visual line-of-sight
(VLOS) and may not operate it over
persons not directly involved in the operation. Only daylight operations are per-mitted, with minimum visibility of three
miles, not closer than 500 feet below and
2000 feet horizontal from clouds, with a
maximum altitude of 500 feet. Operation
in Class B, C, D, and E airspace requires
air traffic control (ATC) permission. Operations are not allowed in areas where
FAA flight restrictions are in place.
The ease or difficulty of obtaining ATC
permission to operate within Class B,
High flying: FAA releases
new regulations for drones
By Matthew Kenney, P. E., Donan