New Drone Rule to Take Effect in August

July 5th, 2016 by Nick St. Denis

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently finalized the first operational rules for commercial use of small unmanned drones. Also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs), drones have been a prospective tool for many aspects of the construction industry.drone pics

U.S. transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement the potential for unmanned aircraft will make certain jobs and the gathering of information safer and easier. “We look forward to working with the aviation community to support innovation, while maintaining our standards as the safest and most complex airspace in the world.”

For the construction industry, the drones could be used to inspect work at high elevations, view progress and identify issues. DWM’s sister publication USGlass magazine explored the topic last year, and industry members were intrigued by the prospect of using drones in glazing and construction—given that it was regulated. Now, the first set of regulations have been established.

The new rule, which takes effect in late August, offers safety regulations for drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations. Provisions are designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground. The regulations require pilots to keep an unmanned aircraft within visual line of sight, and operations are allowed during daylight and twilight if the drone has anti-collision lights.

The regulations also address height and speed restrictions, as well as other operational limits, such as prohibiting flights over unprotected people on the ground who aren’t directly participating in the UAS operation. The FAA is offering a process to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver.

“With this new rule, we are taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect public safety,” said FAA administrator Michael Huerta. “But this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”

Under the final rule, the person flying a drone must be at least 16 years old and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate. The remote pilot will have to perform a preflight visual and operational check of the UAS to ensure safety-pertinent systems are functioning property. The new rule does not specifically deal with privacy issues in the use of drones, though the FAA is looking to address these considerations.

Earlier this year, ASTM International announced its task group on façade inspections is developing a standard on how drones are used for facade inspections. The task group looks to address the growing need for camera-equipped drones to document facade conditions through video and still photography.

The proposed standard will likely include general guidance for safety, a protocol for video-scanning facades, storage of scan results for future use and more. In the U.S., nine cities require periodic facade inspections to uncover unsafe conditions and prevent collapse in about 18,000 buildings, according to ASTM.

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