Recently one of my colleagues hosted an in-service for Nebraska Extension faculty on unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs), which I participated. This was an excellent time to obtain facts about UAVs and the opportunity to discussion potential applications in agriculture and other industries. There are a lot of myths with these unmanned aircrafts, which I’ve decided to share in this week’s column to potentially avoid any potential conflicts or issues. These myths can be found on the Federal Aviation Administration website.
- Myth #1: Unmanned aircraft are not aircraft. Unmanned aircraft, regardless of whether the operation is for recreational, hobby, business or commercial purposes are aircraft.
- Myth #2: Unmanned aircraft are not subject to FAA regulation. All civil aircraft are subject to FAA regulation under law.
- Myth #3: The FAA doesn’t control airspace below 400 feet. The fact is that the FAA is responsible for air safety from the ground up. The FAA has broad authority to prescribe regulations to protect individuals and property on the ground and to prevent collisions between aircraft, between aircraft and land or water vehicles, and between aircraft and airborne objects.
- Myth #4: UAS flights operated for commercial or business purposes are OK if the vehicle is small and operated over private property and below 400 feet. All UAS operations for commercial or business purposes are subject to FAA regulation. At a minimum, any such flights require a certified aircraft and a certificated pilot. UAS operations for commercial or business purposes cannot be operated under the special rule for model aircraft found
- Myth #5: There are too many commercial UAS operations for the FAA to stop. The FAA has to prioritize its safety responsibilities, but the agency is monitoring UAS operations closely. Many times, the FAA learns about suspected commercial UAS operations via a complaint from the public or other businesses. The agency occasionally discovers such operations through the news media or postings on internet sites. When the FAA discovers UAS operations in violation of the FAA’s regulations, the agency has a number of enforcement tools available to address these operations, including a verbal warning, a warning letter, and legal enforcement action.
- Myth #6: Commercial UAS operations will be OK after September 30, 2015. In the 2012 FAA reauthorization legislation (Public Law 112-95), Congress told the FAA to come up with a plan for “safe integration” of UAS by September 30, 2015. Safe integration will be incremental. The agency is writing regulations, which will supplement existing regulations that currently are applicable to the operation of all aircraft (both manned and unmanned), that will apply more specifically to a wide variety of UAS users. The FAA expects to publish a proposed rule for small UAS – under about 55 pounds – later this year. That proposed rule likely would include provisions for commercial operations.
- Myth #7:The FAA is lagging behind other countries in approving commercial drones. This comparison is flawed. The United States has the busiest, most complex airspace in the world, including many general aviation aircraft that must be considered when planning UAS integration, because those same airplanes and small UAS may occupy the same airspace. Developing all the rules and standards needed is a very complex task, and the FAA wants to get it right the first time. They also want to strike the right balance of requirements for UAS to help foster growth in an emerging industry with a wide range of potential uses, but also keep all airspace users and people on the ground safe.
- Myth #8: The FAA predicts as many as 30,000 drones by 2030. That figure is outdated. It was an estimate in the FAA’s 2011 Aerospace Forecast. Since then, the agency has refined its prediction to focus on the area of greatest expected growth. The FAA believes that the civil UAS markets will evolve within the constraints of the regulatory and airspace requirements. Once enabled, commercial markets will develop and demand will be created for additional UAS and the accompanying services they can provide. Once enabled, FAA estimates roughly 7,500 commercial UAS would be viable at the end of five years.