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FAA Tweaks Drone Rules

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The FAA on Monday released some revisions to its rules governing the use of unmanned aircraft systems in the National Airspace System. The changes increase the allowable weight for UAS operated by law enforcement agencies from 4.4 pounds to 25 pounds, and also establish a procedure for those agencies to obtain a waiver to fly UAS. The applicant will first get a waiver for training and performance evaluation, then "when the organization has shown proficiency in flying its UAS," it will receive an operational waiver. The FAA said it has already streamlined its procedures for obtaining waivers and lengthened the duration of operational waivers from 12 months to 24 months.

The FAA requires that UAS must be flown within the line of sight of the operator, less than 400 feet above the ground, during daylight conditions, inside Class G (uncontrolled) airspace, and more than five miles from any airport or other location with aviation activities. Expedited procedures are already in place to grant one-time waivers for time-sensitive emergency missions such as disaster relief and humanitarian efforts, the FAA said. Later this year, the FAA will publish a proposed rule that will establish policies, procedures and standards for a wide spectrum of users in the small UAS community. Six UAS test sites will be selected in December, which will provide data to safely integrate UAS into the nation's airspace by 2015, the FAA said.

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