Journalists, write this date down: May 14, 2012
Under the FAA Modernization and and Reform Act of 2012, the FAA must expedite giving public agencies permits to fly UAVs under specific conditions by May 14, 2012. That’s just a little more than a month from now. In government terms, that’s really, really fast.
Do you cover a law enforcement agency? If I did, I’d start asking around now. Warm up the public records requests. Is your local law enforcement agency applying for an expedited permit? What are their plans? How much did they spend on their drone? Do they plan on using it for law enforcement right away? What assurances can they give to keep the public safe from mishaps? What rules are they going to use to govern themselves? These are all major unanswered questions, and law enforcement agencies and other public bodies appear to be the first to face them in real world conditions.
Here’s the specific sections of the law that require the FAA to expedite public agency permits and the rules they have to fly under, which are very, very similar to the rules that remote control hobbyists fly under now.
SEC. 334. PUBLIC UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS.
(c) AGREEMENTS WITH GOVERNMENT AGENCIES.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall enter into agreements with appropriate government agencies to simplify the process for issuing certificates of waiver or authorization with respect to applications seeking authorization to operate public unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system.
(2) CONTENTS.—The agreements shall—
(A) with respect to an application described in paragraph (1)—
(i) provide for an expedited review of the application;
(ii) require a decision by the Administrator on approval or disapproval within 60 business days of the date of submission of the application; and
(iii) allow for an expedited appeal if the application is disapproved;
(B) allow for a one-time approval of similar operations carried out during a fixed period of time; and
(C) allow a government public safety agency to operate unmanned aircraft weighing 4.4 pounds or less, if operated—
(i) within the line of sight of the operator;
(ii) less than 400 feet above the ground;
(iii) during daylight conditions;
(iv) within Class G airspace; and
(v) outside of 5 statute miles from any airport, heliport, seaplane base, spaceport, or other location with aviation activities.