New Drone Regulations Advanced by Obama Administration

By Stephanie Beasley

Nov. 15 — The FAA submitted a draft proposal to the White House that would allow commercial drones to fly over people not participating in the flight.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs reported Nov. 14 that it received the draft proposal, which is possibly one of the final regulatory moves of the Obama administration. OIRA reviews rules prior to their release.

The Federal Aviation Administration submission means that a draft rule for small commercial drone flights over people should be coming soon and that the White House is open to meeting with interested stakeholders, according to Lisa Ellman and Patrick R. Rizzi of Hogan Lovells. Ellman is a partner at the firm and Rizzi is of counsel.

The FAA in August released final regulations for commercial drones weighing up to 55 pounds. Those regulations banned flights over people not involved in the operation of the flight.

“But to take advantage of the safety and efficiency benefits of drones, companies need to be able to fly in urban and suburban environments, where people are,” Ellman and Rizzi wrote in a blog post. “To use drones for disaster response, newsgathering, filmmaking, real estate, inspections, and more—it is critical that the government enable drone operations that reflect a real-world operating envelope.”

Other activities banned under current FAA drone regulations include drone flights at night and beyond the operator’s line of sight.

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