The Federal Aviation Administration has asked an outside committee to propose eased rules for commercial flights of small drones in urban areas and over people not involved in flight operations. The panel includes drone manufacturers and operators, officials from consensus-standards organizations, researchers and academics. Its report is due April 1.
Early last year, FAA sought a “micro” classification for drones weighing less than 4.4 lbs and made of materials that give or break under pressure, thus reducing threats to passersby. But that classification was not adopted. FAA spokesman Les Dorr said the scope for the committee’s deliberation isn’t limited by weight, but performance.
Greg Sherwin, director of preconstruction and estimation at Midwest Constructors LLC, Indianapolis, says the drones he uses for construction inspections are well under 5 lbs. He says easing the restriction shouldn’t have much effect on his flights, because most are above controlled-access construction sites. But he notes that a less restrictive standard would make it simpler to fly above sites such as disaster areas or land being considered for acquisition.