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FAA issues interim UAV Rules

May 16, 2012, Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued rules allowing UAVs of up to 25 pounds in weight to be operated by law enforcement agencies.


May 16, 2012
Carey Fredericks

The step is an interim one until the FAA completes rules to allow small drones for commercial purposes, Ben Gielow, government relations manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, told Bloomberg News. Congress ordered the FAA to complete those rules within two years. A proposed regulation is due this year.

Congress is encouraging more U.S. UAV flights under the FAA reauthorization passed in February, with the goal of adapting technology used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. The law also requires the FAA to name six test sites by June and integrate UAVs into the U.S. aviation system by 2015.

The announced rule calls for agencies to first show they can operate a UAV before being granted an FAA permit. UACs must fly within 400 feet (122 meters) of the ground, remain in sight of the operator, and stay clear of airports.

The FAA has also streamlined the approval process for special certificates required to operate larger UAVs. The new process can be completed online and creates an expedited approval process for time–sensitive emergency missions, allowing applicants to appeal if their request is denied.

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The FAA has received 61 applications from agencies, police departments, and public universities to fly unmanned aircraft.