Over the last few months there has been an increase of close proximity sightings of drones/UAS(Unmanned Aircraft Systems) over large airports by commercial aircraft. The number of these close proximity sightings reported to the FAA for 2015 has increased by more than 270% from the previous year. Some of the large increase in sightings and incidents can be attributable to the fact that the method in tracking these reports wasn’t fully in place in 2014. Additionally, the collision hazard between these UAS and aircraft is fairly minor. The UAS themselves are typically pretty small and all commercial aircraft are all designed to take a hit from a 5 pound bird and keep flying. In addition to this increase in proximity sightings there has also been an increase in incidents involving UAS and people on the ground.
In an effort to address the potential collision hazards and minimize risk, the FAA has recently implemented requirements and informational campaigns for operators of UAS. All this information can be found at www.faa.gov/uas or www.knowbeforeyoufly.org. There is also a B4UFLY app for iOS. The app for Android is still in beta testing.
With these new requirements you may have members of the public approaching you with questions. The key information that all operators need to know is as follows:
• All UAS flights conducted within 5 miles of an airport require airport owner and air traffic control permission.
• Flights must be conducted below 400 feet for private/hobby use.
• Operator must maintain visual contact with UAS personally or by communicating with another individual acting as a spotter.
• Remain well clear of, and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations.
• Don’t fly near people or stadiums.
• Don’t fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs.
• Don’t be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft.
• Do not photograph people in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission.
• Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Violations of FAA UAS regulations can involve fines up to $27,500 and up to 20 years in jail.
• ALL UAS weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds must be registered with the FAA as of December 21, 2015. A unique identification number will be assigned by the FAA and must be affixed to the UAS. This registration was free until January 20, 2016. After that date the cost is $5 to register. Registrations are valid for 3 years. This registration can be accomplished on the www.knowbeforeyoufly.org website.