Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released their finalized rules for use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, or drones) in US airspace. In response, Studio M has begun formulating a new set of rules for use of our drones by students, staff, and faculty. The new regulations take effect at the end of August 2016. Here’s a head start on what you’ll need to know to use Studio M’s gear:
- The new rules establish separate regimes for commercial and noncommercial uses:
- Students: Noncommercial uses include uncompensated personal projects, recreational flying, and class assignments. Any work pursuant to faculty research is classified commercial, as is any personal use for which you are compensated.
- Staff: Noncommercial uses include uncompensated personal projects and recreational flying. Commercial uses include any flights undertaken as part of your Davidson College job, or any personal flights for which you are compensated.
- Faculty: Noncommercial uses include uncompensated personal projects and recreational flying. Commercial uses include any flights undertaken as a part of teaching a class, any flights related to College or grant-funded research, or any personal uses for which you receive compensation. Student use related to your classes is considered noncommercial, but student use related to your research is considered commercial.
- Generally, if a paycheck is involved in any way, assume the use will be considered commercial.
- The new rules also establish a new position called the Remote Pilot in Command (RPiC). RPiC’s must pass basic aeronautical certification by the FAA (called an airmen certificate).
- Flights considered commercial under the guidelines above must be conducted or supervised by an RPiC. An RPiC may supervise no more than on drone at a time. Please contact us for more information about the certification process and its associated costs.
- Flights classified as hobby or personal under the above rules do not require an RPiC.
- All students, faculty and staff wishing to use the Studio drones for hobby or commercial use must pass a basic flight-training workshop provided by the Studio (contact us for more information).
- All flights are subject to the following basic rules (also note that any of these rules may be waived with appropriate FAA clearance, so if you’re considering a project that would run afoul of one or more, but can reasonably justify your use, talk to us about applying for a waiver):
- May only operate in FAA Class G airspace.
- Must maintain visual line-of-sight contact with the drone (first-person video relayed from the drone is not acceptable to fulfill this requirement).
- Aircraft must stay below 400 feet.
- Daytime flight only (flights during civil twilight — 30 minutes before official sunrise and after official sunset — are permitted with appropriate marker lights on the drone).
- Airspeed limited to 100mph.
- Must yield right-of-way to manned aircraft.
- Must not fly over people.
- Must not fly from a moving vehicle (pilot may not be in vehicle).
These rules may seem complex at first, but are actually pretty easy in practice. Look for more information here soon about getting trained and/or certified with Studio M!