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FAA Releases Long-Awaited Small Drone Regulations That Will Affect The Construction Industry

Posted by Nicole Liotine | May 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

It's a bird, it's a plane … wait … it's a drone!

In today's modern age of hi-tech technological advancements, drones — also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or unmanned aircrafts (UA) — are becoming increasingly commonplace. What was once a creation used only by the National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) and the military, can now be purchased by individuals at places like Amazon.com and Best Buy.

Numerous industries are using drones, too. For example, the paparazzi use drones to take photos of celebrities so they can avoid the confrontation with stars who do not want to be photographed. Many wedding planners also utilize drones to take wedding pictures from the sky.

Drones are also widely used in the construction industry. In fact, the construction industry was one of the first to employ drones outside of the armed forces because drones have proven incredibly useful in tracking the progress of large construction projects and performing aerial site surveys.

Given the growing popularity of drone use, Congress passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act in 2012. The Act charged the FAA with the task of creating and implementing regulations to provide for the safe use and integration of drones into the national airspace system as soon as possible, but no later than the end of September 2015.

The FAA did not meet that deadline, but in late June of this year, the FAA finally released its Small UAS (drone) regulations which took effect on August 29, 2016. Here's a brief overview on what contractors need to know about these new FAA regulations:

  • The types of drone operations covered by the regulations include aerial photography and building inspections.
  • All drones used for construction purposes must weigh 55 pounds or less and must be registered. Contractors can register their drones here.
  • Anyone piloting a drone must have a remote piloting certificate with a small drone or UAS rating, or be operating under the direct supervision of someone who has that certificate. To qualify for the certificate, pilots must pass an aeronautical knowledge test administered by an FAA approved testing center, or have a part 61 pilot certificate other than “student pilot.” Drone pilots must also have completed a drone or small UAS training program within the past 2 years that was administered by the FAA. All pilots will be required to submit to and pass a security vetting process administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
  • Drones must stay within view of the remote pilot in command or person manipulating the flight controls. Drones cannot be flown over individuals who are not a part of the construction project, inside a covered structure, or inside a stationary vehicle.
  • Drones can only be operated between dawn and dusk and must be equipped with anti-collision lighting.
  • Drones cannot be operated faster than 100 miles per hour or within 400 feet of any physical structure.
  • Drones can only be operated under conditions with a weather visibility of at least 3 miles from the control center.
  • Air traffic approval is required to fly drones in class B, C or D airspace, though drones can be flown in class G airspace without air traffic control approval.
  • Drones cannot be operated from an aircraft in motion or from a moving vehicle, unless the drone is traveling over a sparsely populated area.
  • Finally, and not surprisingly, drones cannot be used to carry hazardous materials, or be operated carelessly or recklessly.

Despite the numerous restrictions placed on drones used in the construction industry, many of these requirements can be waived if you demonstrate that you can operate your drone safely. For a waiver form, click here.

If you are a contractor who uses or wishes to use drones to complete your projects, or have any other construction law matter, contact the qualified attorneys at the HMS Law Group, LLP. Our skilled construction law attorney Rodney Moy has nearly two decades of experience representing clients in all types of construction matters, and is here to help you! We can ensure that you are in compliance with required rules and regulations or defend you and/or your company against liability if you are threatened with litigation.

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