Drones - What is the Effect of the New FAA Regulations?

Drones are more than a passing fad or hobby - they have widespread private and public implications.  In the United States last year drones mapped approximately 2 million acres, however, in the last 4 months commercial drone users mapped 3 million acres.  The explosive growth of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) is due in large part to decreasing price points and new technology.  Drones are expected to total some 1.4 million by 2025.

Public entities have utilized drones for a multitude of tasks, such as:

  • Search & Rescue Operations

  • Aerial photography, inspection and mapping

  • Crime, accident and fire investigation and documentation

  • Monitoring/Inspecting powerlines, pipelines and infrastructure

  • Law enforcement surveillance

Municipalities wishing to leverage this technology in their operations will be required to comply with the FAA’s newly released Part 107 regulations which became effective at the end of August 2016.  In addition to the FAA regulations, Oklahomans also need to be aware of HB 2599, that Mary Fallin signed into law in May of this year. House Bill 2599 restricts drone flight near any critical infrastructure such as: power plants, refineries/petro-chemical facilities and railroad facilities to name a few. However, HB 2599 does not apply to the federal government, the state or a political subdivision of the state or a law enforcement agency.

Municipalities making the plunge into the use of this new technology have 2 options to comply with the new FAA regulations: 

  1. Follow the same rules as business users. That is, the FAA’s small UAS rule (known as “Part 107”)

  2. As a Government Entity you may apply for a blanket public Certificate of Authorization (COA) which allows flights at or below 400 ft in Class G airspace, self-certification of the UAS pilot and the ability to obtain emergency COAs under special circumstances.

Municipalities opting for compliance under Part 107, can get training here in Oklahoma through Oklahoma City Community College’s Professional Development Institute. OCCC’s Professional Development Institute offers an innovative program to help operators learn how to properly use drones and stay in compliance with the ever-changing rules that drone operators are required to follow. For more information on the courses offered at OCCC, contact Patrick Clanin by phone at (405) 682-7854 or via e-mail at patrick.a.clanin@occc.edu.

To learn more about the new FAA Unmanned Aircraft System Regulations, you can visit the FAA’s website at www.faa.gov/uas. In addition, OMAG has formed an affiliation with “Know Before You Fly,” a non-profit organization that provides information on the FAA’s regulations and resources to determine which route of compliance is appropriate for your organization. You can visit their website at www.knowbeforeyoufly.org.

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