FAA Issues UAV Policy

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Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are rapidly being developed and deployed, and the FAA on Tuesday published a UAV policy to outline how these aircraft can be used in the National Airspace System. The rules vary depending if the UAV is operated as a public aircraft (operated by the government), a civil aircraft or a model. Public aircraft operate under individual Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs), which are issued after an FAA review of the program and its safety protocols. More than 50 COAs have been granted in the last two years, and a record number are expected for 2007. Civil aircraft must operate under experimental airworthiness certificates. Guidelines for operation of model aircraft are found in FAA Advisory Circular 91-57. Such aircraft may only be used for sport, and not for commercial or business purposes, the FAA notes. More policy statements can be expected as the technology and its applications continue to develop. UAVs range in size from wingspans of six inches to 246 feet and can weigh from about four ounces to over 25,600 pounds. Their use is now is relatively scarce, but about 50 development programs are in the works, with about 155 designs in testing stages.