More regulations for drones on the way

(Last Updated On: January 1, 2015)

The United States and Australian governments will be developing additional regulations for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or drones. With the entry price of around $500 without a camera, the number of these things in the air is increasing substantially. It is a pretty safe bet that many people found one under their Christmas tree this year. Drones have already created problems on wildfires in both countries.

The PBS News Hour recently covered the subject, indicating that Congress will develop their own rules, in lieu of the FAA’s failure to develop anything substantial so far:

… “That appears to be what some key lawmakers have in mind. “We in Congress are very interested in UAS,” Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said at a hearing this month, referring to unmanned aerial systems, or drones. “We understand UAS are an exciting technology with the potential to transform parts of our economy. … It is our responsibility to take a close look.”

One of the committee’s first priorities next year is writing legislation to reauthorize FAA programs and overhaul aviation policy. The bill is expected to include directions from lawmakers on how to integrate drones into the nation’s aviation system. The last reauthorization bill, passed in 2012, directed the agency to integrate drones by Sept. 30, 2015, but it’s clear the FAA will miss that deadline.”…

Now Congress is going to provide directions on how to operate UAS’s in the National Airspace …

A scary thought — Congress developing aviation rules.

Below are excerpts from Queensland Country Life about how Australia plans to deal with the proliferation of UAS:

AUSTRALIA is set to have among the world’s toughest rules on drones after the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA) rewrites its regulations in the new year.

CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said the “huge growth” in popularity of the flying “unmanned aerial vehicles” – which are helicopter-like craft, with GPS and cameras – meant regulations had to be “updated”.

At the moment drones for commercial use by police, fire services, aerial photographers and in some agricultural settings are regulated by CASA. Commercial users – there are 180 in Australia, a jump on only 34 in 2013 – need a licence. But recreational users do not.

Mr Gibson said drones must be kept more than 30 metres away from other people and must not be flown over crowds of people at beaches or sporting events.

Drones can only be operated in daylight where the operator can see them, should be kept more than 5 kilometres from airports and be flown below 121 metres.

Infringement notices can be issued if these regulations are broken. Prosecutions can be enforced if anyone is injured.

Late last year CASA struck a deal with a big drone manufacturer, DJI Phantom, in China, to insert written guidelines in the boxes. This follows incidents of drones being flown over bushfires and crime scenes to capture video and photographs. In October 2013 a drone flew over a bushfire near Sydney, forcing emergency services to ground firefighting aircraft.

A man who flew a drone at the scene of a siege at Altona North in Victoria two weeks ago will be fined $850. The drone crashed into a power line and fell, nearly hitting a police officer. In June a drone narrowly missed a rescue helicopter in Newcastle. It was flying at nearly 300 metres.

We heard from Dick who said:

Retired USFS Smokejumper and Pilot Willis Curdy from Missoula starts Monday [January 5, 2015] as a member of the Montana House. He’ll introduce legislation limiting drones.

Here is an excerpt from an article at Fire Aviation last summer:

A privately operated drone (or unmanned aerial vehicle) caused concern on the Sand Fire south of Placerville, California on Sunday. The person that was controlling the aircraft and getting video footage of the blaze was told by authorities to stop because of the potential danger to helicopters, lead planes, and air tankers flying over the fire.

A video shot from the drone was uploaded to YouTube showing that the aircraft was directly over the fire, which could have been a serious hazard to helicopters and air tankers operating at 50 to 180 feet above the ground.

There are reports that Air Attack, when informed of the drone, came close to grounding all firefighting aircraft until the threat could be mitigated. However the operator was found and instead, the drone was grounded.

Last month the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior issued an Interagency Aviation Safety Alert about the hazards of unmanned aerial vehicles operating near wildfires.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bean.

3 thoughts on “More regulations for drones on the way”

  1. Good article.

    “A scary thought — Congress developing aviation rules.” Be scared, very scared.

    As an engineer I wonder about the feasibility of a jammer-like capability, or a non-cooperative take-control capability that could be used to clear airspace. This leads to questions like: Is there enough commonality in commercial drone control systems to make this feasible? What about on-board autonomous control systems, how prevalent/capable are they and can they be dealt with? Can it be one without negative impact on authorized flight operations?

    1. In the US the control frequencies are standardized and listed by the FCC. Control protocols vary.
      -Jamming is easier than spoofing or capturing the control systems.
      -Autonomous programmable control is not a feature of commercial systems [yet].
      -Frequency separation of the UAS control frequencies from other aviation frequencies makes your last suggestion feasible.

      Preventing UAS operations in a TFR by jamming although not trivial is feasible.

      1. Thanks for the info!

        I’ve read some articles about drone spoofing via GPS jamming/manipulation. An interesting idea, but I could see considerable potential for unintended impact on authorized aircraft.

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