FAA releases report detailing categories for drones flying over crowds

On Monday, the Associated Press got early access to a report commissioned by the FAA on how drones flying over or near people should be categorized and restricted. Today, that report was officially released, with all the juicy (and boring) details you’ve come to expect from government task force briefings.

The full report, available here on the FAA’s site (PDF), doesn’t differ much from what leaked on Monday — four categories, escalating from under-250-gram micro-drones up to larger, more dangerous ones that require closer scrutiny and damage mitigation plans. We ran them down earlier, so you can read that or skim through the executive summary in the report itself.

The major addition to existing approval processes would be official tests of force and danger of bodily harm from a given drone. Think of how the FCC tests phones to make sure their radiation output is within acceptable limits. Now think of a lab like that where they ram 50-pound drones into a wall full of sensors and record it in slow motion. (A YouTube channel is born.)

The committee’s findings aren’t law or rule, or anything really except the opinions of experts requested formally by the FAA. Actual regulations will have to be made by actual regulators, but they take these recommendations seriously. There will be a public comment period for any proposed rules, too, during which you or any of the participants in the task force can object or suggest improvements.

We’ll be on the watch for the official rule proposal over the next few months, as well as rules that are still pending, regarding commercial use and automated operation in populated areas.

Curious what industry reps the FAA chose to help establish these new rules? Here’s the full list of participants in the committee.

  • 3D Robotics (3DR)
  • Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA)
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
  • Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA)
  • Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)
  • American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE)
  • Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI)
  • Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE)
  • ASTM International
  • AT&T
  • Consumer Technology Association (CTA)
  • DJI
  • Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA)
  • General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA)
  • GoogleX
  • GoPro, Inc.
  • Helicopter Association International (HAI)
  • Horizon Hobby
  • ICON Aircraft
  • Intel Corporation
  • National Agricultural Aviation Association(NAAA)
  • National Association of Realtors (NAR)
  • National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO)
  • News Media Coalition
  • Professional Aerial Photographers Association, International (PAPA)
  • Small UAV Coalition
  • Toy Industry Association