Controversy and Request for Amendment to New Federal Aviation Administration Drone Regulations

The American Association for Justice has suggested amendments to the recently proposed Federal Aviation Administration Drone Regulations. The proposed rules are causing controversy as many believe they don’t go far enough to ensure public safety.

The Problem

With their increasing popularity and availability, drones are starting to take up airspace, sometimes in protected, high-risk areas that could potentially cause major damage to larger aircrafts. Recently, a drone was seen in flight just 200 feet over a commercial jet at Love Field Airport in Dallas, TX. It was flying in protected airspace without permission from the Love Field Tower. In another instance, a rescue helicopter had to swerve out of the way to avoid a drone that was flying straight toward it.

Current regulations maintain that drones can only be flown in daylight, below 500 feet, with a maximum speed limit of 100 mph, and operators need to have FAA certification. Even though this covers a lot, many aviation organizations are calling for stricter amendments. The AAJ has proposed three key amendments to meet the goal of safely integrating small drones into national airspace:

Required Tracking Equipment

Small drones are too tiny to show up on radar or anti-collision warning systems, and when they get close enough for a pilot to see them, it is often too late. This amendment would require small drones to have transponders, or data tracking devices, so pilots can detect when one is near, and take appropriate measures to avoid a collision. A small drone could pose a serious threat by causing damage to a plane’s machinery, rendering it inoperable mid-flight.

Lowered Speed Limit

The maximum speed limit as it stands now is 100 mph, which the AAJ argues is too fast. If a 55-pound drone were to travel at 100 mph, and hit a cockpit windshield, the force of the collision would be great enough to shatter the glass, causing injury or death to the pilots inside. The drone should also be required to yield the right-of-way to planes at all times.

Local Government Should Have the Right to Determine Safety Measures

Because of different geographies, populations, and infrastructures, each municipality will have to have different codes regarding drone flight safety. Small drones cannot travel far due to size, and line-of-sight limitations, so most municipalities will need to determine extra safety measures considering their local airspace.

Slack Davis Sanger attorneys have years of successful experience in aviation litigation and are knowledgeable about the latest federal regulations, cases and trends. For more information on unmanned aerial vehicles and other aircraft, contact our aviation attorneys today.

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