FAA Finalizes New Federal Rules on the Commercial Use of Drones

On June 21, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized a new and comprehensive set of rules for the commercial use of small drones in all industries, including construction.
This action completes a rulemaking process that the FAA began in February of 2015 – in an effort to meet Congressional demands and to stem a rapidly rising tide of applications for individual exemptions from longstanding rules that make no distinction between manned and unmanned aircraft.
Through January 20 of this year, the FAA had granted 3,136 of these exemptions for the commercial use of drones, and significantly, 48% of that total were for uses in the construction and engineering.
AGC of America Success
AGC of America submitted detailed comments on the proposed rules and continues to assess the FAA’s response.  At the outset of its letter to the agency, AGC encouraged the FAA “to create a straightforward and streamlined process for companies to request exemptions from the agency’s [proposed] requirements and restrictions” where alternative approaches to “specific aircraft operations” would be “equally effective” in addressing the agency’s concerns.
Perhaps the best news is that the FAA has taken that advice, adding “waiver authority to the regulatory text in order to accommodate . . . unique operational circumstances.”  The agency has created a new “certificate-of-waiver process” specifically to give the agency the flexibility “to assess case-specific information concerning a small UAS operation that takes place in a unique operating environment,” such as a construction jobsite.
Follow-Up Programs
AGC continues to study the final rules.  It is also scheduling a series of educational programs on the specific questions drones operations will require construction contractors to address.  The dates and times for the individual programs included in this WebEd series, and the topics that each will address, are the following
September 28
2:00 p.m. Eastern
How Construction Contractors Are Already Using Drones
October 5
2:00 p.m. Eastern
The New Federal “Rules of the Road”
October 12
2:00 p.m. Eastern
Privacy, Nuisance and Other Legal Doctrines Restricting Drone Operations
October 19
2:00 p.m. Eastern
Insurance and Outsourcing Strategies for Drone Operations
October 26
2:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Manage the Additional Data that Drones Generate
For more information, including links to the FAA’s summary of its new rules, to its Fact Sheet on the new rules and to the full text of the rules themselves, simply click here.