Drones en EEUU

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On Monday, the US Federal Aviation Agency (“FAA”) presented the Draft Notice of Rulemaking (“NRPM”) for Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems over People. This draft document forms part of an FAA strategy to promote the use of drones, given that projections indicate that, in 2020, there will be seven million drones operating solely in the USA.

Since June 2016, drone operations at night and over people are prohibited in the absence of authorization from the FAA under Part 107 of the FAA Regulations (on small unmanned aircraft). It is estimated that since then, of around 3,400 authorizations requested, 1,233 have been granted without any accidents having been reported.

Based on this, the FAA has proposed amending the regulations. If the draft document is approved, nighttime operations with drones and flights over people will be allowed without the need for authorization if a series of requirements are met.

In both cases, only professional pilots can operate the drones. To carry out nighttime operations, it will be necessary to (i) obtain a special license that can be obtained after completing a theoretical and practical course, and (ii) meet anti-collision lighting requirements by making the drone visible from a distance of five km.

For flights over people, the document proposes creating categories: one allowing free flight if the drone weighs less than 25 kg and others for drones that exceed this limit and accordingly pose a greater risk of injury to persons. In these latter cases, the manufacturer must prove that in the event of collision with a person, the harm suffered would not be serious.

The FAA’s aim is to integrate drones in the national airspace. To do so, it has announced a pilot program for an unmanned traffic management system due to start in September 2019, focusing on areas such as flight planning, communications and meteorological services. To implement this program, the FAA will work together with NASA, which will be responsible for the design.

Approval of the draft text will be key to the achievement of the objectives proposed by the FAA, while at the same time removing restrictions on the creative capacity of drone designers and granting them greater regulatory scope in the exercise of their profession.

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