Excerpted from: Docket No.: FAA-2015-0150; Notice No. 15-01] RIN 2120–AJ60 Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT. ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).
1. Micro UAS Classification
In addition to part 107 as proposed, the FAA is considering including a micro UAS classification. This classification would be based on the UAS ARC’s recommendations, as well as approaches adopted in other countries that have a separate set of regulations for micro UAS.
In developing this micro UAS classification, the FAA examined small UAS policies adopted in other countries. In considering other countries’ aviation policies, the FAA noted that each country has its unique aviation statutory and rulemaking requirements, which may include that country’s unique economic, geographic, and airspace density considerations. Canada is our only North American neighbor with a regulatory framework for small UAS. The chart below summarizes Transport Canada’s operational limitations for micro UAS (4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) and under) and compares it with the regulatory framework in proposed part 107 as well as the micro UAS classification that the FAA is considering.
The FAA is considering the following provisions for the micro UAS classification:
· The unmanned aircraft used in the operation would weigh no more than 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms). This provision would be based on the ARC’s recommendations and on how other countries, such as Canada, subdivide their UAS into micro or lightweight UAS;
· The unmanned aircraft would be made out of frangible materials that break, distort, or yield on impact so as to present a minimal hazard to any person or object that the unmanned aircraft collides with. Examples of such materials are breakable plastic, paper, wood, and foam. This provision would be based on the ARC’s recommendations;
· During the course of the operation, the unmanned aircraft would not exceed an airspeed of 30 knots. This provision would be based on the ARC’s recommendation, which was concerned with damage that could be done by unmanned aircraft flying at higher speeds; 56
· During the course of the operation, the unmanned aircraft would not travel higher than 400 feet above ground level (AGL). This provision would be based on the ARC’s recommendations;
· The unmanned aircraft would be flown within visual line of sight; first-person view would not be used during the operation; and the aircraft would not travel farther than 1,500 feet away from the operator. These provisions would be based on ARC recommendations and Canada’s requirements for micro UAS;
· The operator would maintain manual control of the flight path of the unmanned aircraft at all times, and the operator would not use automation to control the flight path of the unmanned aircraft. This provision would be based on ARC recommendations and Canada’s requirements for micro UAS;
· The operation would be limited entirely to Class G airspace. This provision would be based on Canada’s requirements for micro UAS; and
· The unmanned aircraft would maintain a distance of at least 5 nautical miles from any airport.
This provision would be based on Canada’s requirements for micro UAS. The operational parameters discussed above may provide significant additional safety mitigations. Specifically, a very light (micro) UAS operating at lower altitudes and at lower speeds, that is made up of materials that break or yield easily upon impact, may pose a much lower risk to persons, property, and other NAS users than a UAS that does not operate within these parameters. Additionally, limiting the micro UAS operation entirely to Class G airspace, far away from an airport, and in close proximity to the operator (as well 57as limiting the unmanned aircraft’s flight path to the operator’s constant manual control) would significantly reduce the risk of collision with another aircraft. Accordingly, because the specific parameters of a micro UAS operation described above would provide additional safety mitigation for those operations, the FAA’s micro UAS approach would allow micro UAS to operate directly over people not involved in the operation. Under the FAA’s micro UAS approach, the operator of a micro UAS also would be able to operate using a UAS airman certificate with a different rating (an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a micro UAS rating) than the airman certificate that would be created by proposed part 107. No knowledge test would be required in order to obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a micro UAS rating; instead, the applicant would simply submit a signed statement to the FAA stating that he or she has familiarized him or herself with all of the areas of knowledge that are tested on the initial aeronautical knowledge test that is proposed under part 107.
The FAA is also considering whether to require, as part of the micro UAS approach, that the micro UAS be made out of frangible material. A UAS that is made out of frangible material presents a significantly lower risk to persons on the ground, as that UAS is more likely to shatter if it should impact a person rather than injuring that person. Without the risk mitigation provided by frangible-material construction, the FAA would be unable to allow micro UAS to operate directly over a person not involved in the operation. The FAA notes that, currently, a majority of fixed-wing small UAS are made out of frangible materials that would satisfy the proposed requirement. The FAA invites comments on whether it should eliminate frangibility from the micro UAS framework.58
The FAA also invites commenters to submit data and any other supporting documentation on whether the micro UAS classification should be included in the final rule, and what provisions the FAA should adopt for such a classification. The FAA invites further comments, with supporting documentation, estimating the costs and benefits of implementing a micro UAS approach in the final rule. Finally, the FAA invites comments to assess the risk to other airspace users posed by the lesser restricted integration of micro UAS into the NAS. The FAA notes, however, that due to statutory constraints, the FAA would be unable to eliminate the requirement to hold an airman certificate and register the unmanned aircraft even if it were to adopt a micro UAS approach in the final rule.
During the course of this rulemaking, the FAA also received a petition for rulemaking from UAS America Fund LLC. This petition presented the FAA with an alternative approach to regulating micro UAS, complete with a set of regulatory provisions that would be specific to micro UAS operations. Because the FAA was already in the process of rulemaking at the time this petition was filed, pursuant to 14 CFR 11.73(c), the FAA will not treat this petition as a separate action, but rather, will consider it as a comment on this rulemaking. Accordingly, the FAA has placed a copy of UAS America Fund’s rulemaking petition in the docket for this rulemaking and invites comments on the suggestions presented in this petition. Any comments received in response to the proposals in the petition will be considered in this rulemaking.