Saturday, February 6, 2016

Drone rules could be less restrictive if legislation advances

Avsight drone pilot Kevin Fallico says that once the FAA approves drone rules, the industry could produce more than 100,000 jobs within a decade. His company and others are urging the Federal Aviation Administration to get drone regulations completed. 

LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) — The Federal Aviation Administration is working to create final rules and guidelines to safely integrate Unmanned Aircraft Systems, known as drones, into the national airspace.

Some in the commercial drone industry say it's taking too long and they need direction on the do's and don'ts. One lawmaker has proposed a bill to nudge the FAA forward, and that could mean some big changes in the interim.

"I think this bill is going to let the FAA know that everybody is serious. There's hundreds of thousands of these drones, both hobbyists or commercial," said Avisight drone pilot Kevin Fallico. "I think the legislation is going to let the FAA know they are serious. We need some guidelines because they aren't making fewer of these things. They're only making more."

It's a waiting game for pilots like Fallico whose company wants to abide by the regulations, but have been left in limbo as they wait to hear what they are.

The FAA's initial proposed rules from last year brought on unanswered questions. Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer says the delay stifles innovation instead of encouraging it. He introduced a bill this week to create an interim framework of guidelines, which requires operators to pass written and flight tests, and requires aircraft registration and insurance during the period the FAA finalizes rules covering commercial drones.

A big change that local commercial pilots appear to favor is reducing how far a commercial drone pilot can fly from a tower controlled airport. If air traffic approves it, instead of 5 miles, a drone can fly as close as 2 miles away.

"Between Henderson, North Las Vegas, McCarran and Nellis, our 5-mile ring covers about 90 percent of the population and activity centers all up and down the strip, Fremont Street, so we are really limited. You have to be in this area in Henderson or out in Summerlin to be 5 miles away so being able to get in, that's going to be great for us or anybody doing commercial operations," said Fallico.

The UAS industry expects to produce more than 100,000 jobs within a decade after the FAA regulations are complete. Fallico hopes this bill will speed up that process.

"The biggest thing right now is there are people like Avisight trying to do this right by following the guidelines that are established," he said.

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