FAA To Appoint Rulemaking Committee For Micro Drones

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The FAA has again called on industry stakeholders to help develop rules for drone flying, this time for "micro" unmanned aircraft systems that would be allowed to fly over people. The agency is assembling an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PDF) that will have about five weeks to come up with recommendations for the size and makeup of drones considered safe for flying in the presence of non-operators, and how their operations would be regulated. The micro-drone concept was part of the FAA's proposed rule from a year ago to allow flights over "any person" if the drone weighed no more than 4.4 pounds and was made of easily broken materials to avoid injuries. The micro category was dropped from ensuing drone proposals, and on Wednesday the agency said it wants to take "a more flexible, performance-based approach" to revisit the idea. Twenty-six organizations (PDF), including those representing general aviation, air carriers and drone manufacturers, are invited to join the committee, which has until April 1 to submit its recommendations.

The Department of Transportation "continues to be bullish on new technology," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in Wednesday's announcement. "We recognize the significant industry interest in expanding commercial access to the National Airspace System. The short deadline reinforces our commitment to a flexible regulatory approach that can accommodate innovation while maintaining today's high levels of safety." The model for the ARC will come from the drone registration task force, which convened in late 2015 and in a matter of weeks, UAS makers, users and aviation groups developed recommendations resulting in the new requirement that drone owners must register their aircraft online before flying them.