Search

Enact Commonsense Drone Rules

March 3rd, 2016 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , ,

Amidst all the hysterical reports that the sky is falling or it’s literally raining drones, Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis recently introduced a thoughtful Micro Drone amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act (AIRR Act). The amendment would create a new “Micro UAS Classification” of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), improving safety, access and compliance while also encouraging innovation. For the first time, micro drones would be permitted for commercial purposes, appropriately advancing what many believe to be the smallest, safest and fastest-growing sector of the UAS community. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee very commendably voted to accept that amendment without any voiced opposition and then approved the entire AIRR Act, as amended.

It is crucial to note this legislation would not deregulate the use of UAS, but rather proposes regulations containing five commonsense rules that are easy to remember and follow. In fact, many of these rules already exist to oversee safe practices for the recreational use of drones. Under the new amendment, micro UAS (mUAS) would be required to operate at: “(1) less than 400 feet above ground level; (2) at an airspeed of not greater than 40 knots; (3) within the visual line of sight of the operator; (4) during daylight; and (5) at least 5 statute miles from the geographic center of an airport [with an exception for those who provide notice and obtain permission].”

In response to this legislative initiative the FAA announced the formation of an aviation rulemaking committee composed of industry stakeholders to develop recommendations for a similar regulatory framework. Representatives for a coalition of  more than a dozen news organizations (including NPPA) will participate as committee members.

Given the complicated and often-disregarded current FAA regulations for small UAS (sUAS), which includes every type of unmanned system under 55 pounds, we can only hope this bill will be enacted as approved and then implemented as quickly as possible. We believe that adopting the micro UAS rule will be far more effective in approving and regulating commercial use than waiting for a final FAA rule under the current Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, petitioning for a Section 333 Exemption, or operating a UAS “unlawfully” in fear of FAA enforcement action.

It is widely accepted that people are far more likely to abide by commonsense rules that impose the least burdensome restrictions. This is true for operators of small unmanned aircraft systems as well. The current proposed FAA requirements that are expected to be in place later this year include aeronautical knowledge testing on eleven topics, traveling to test facilities, and re-testing every two years—requirements that create high barriers for low-risk users, increasing the potential for widespread non-compliance.

The on-going restrictions on most sUAS uses are simply not sustainable or justifiable. Enacting a new category of mUAS subject to risk-based safety and operational restrictions will enable and enhance the safety of all aspects of UAS operations, including, but not limited to: newsgathering, educational, humanitarian and commercial use. It also will relieve the FAA from some of the administrative burdens of granting exemptions for low-risk operations, thus allowing the agency to focus its resources on the more challenging aspects of safely integrating UAS use into the national air space, which is another reason the FAA should immediately begin work to support mUAS approval.

Employing simple and familiar rules that already exist for recreational use and applying them to the smallest and safest UAS category, streamlines the process for everyone (including journalists) by encouraging a culture of safety and widespread voluntary compliance, while at the same time advancing innovation. Hopefully Congress will agree and pass an FAA reauthorization act that includes the mUAS amendment.

Mickey H. Osterreicher is general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) which is part of the News Media Coalition, advocating for the use of UAS for newsgathering. He has met with the FAA and congressional staff to discuss these issues as well as participated in stakeholder meetings held by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency regarding UAS privacy concerns.

Posted in drone, Drones, First Amendment, micro drones, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

NPPA Files Comments As Part of News Media Coalition Regarding FAA Drone Registration

November 7th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , ,

In response to a Request for Information from the FAA, the NPPA, as part of a News Media Coalition (NMC) filed Comments on November 6, 2015, regarding Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) registration,

According to Charles D. Tobin of Holland & Knight, LLP on behalf of the 17 news organizations and associations, “the News Media Coalition has stressed, and the government has acknowledged, that the First Amendment rights of the public in receiving news and information in the public interest, and the media in gathering that news and information, must be preserved in the regulation of any new technology, including UAS.”

With that overriding principle in mind the NMC went on to “strongly urge the FAA to require registration at the point-of-sale with registration information submitted by the seller, rather than the end-users,” to avoid an overly burdensome and costly process.

The coalition also advised that the  “FAA should only require the submission of the limited contact information from users necessary to ensure accountability” and “to avoid unnecessary administrative burdens and bureaucratic delays, registration should be web-based [with] information about the registration should be available in an easy-to-use and searchable online database that provides access consistent with that provided by the FAA for other aircraft registration.”

Additionally, “operation of UAS should be permitted upon submission of registration information, rather than awaiting affirmative approval or imposing a waiting period before a UAS may be legally operated. Any delay or additional affirmative steps could restrict an otherwise qualified UAS operator from exercising her First Amendment rights” and that “there should not be any fees—for users or sellers—to file UAS registrations with the FAA.

The group went on express its concern about registration requirements that operators file detailed flight plans with the FAA because it “would not meaningfully contribute to safety “make it virtually impossible to use UAS for breaking news stories.”

Should the FAA adopt special rules for micro UAS (under 2.2 lbs.) the group believes they should be exempt from registration requirements because “collection of such information would be overly burdensome to users and to the FAA and, given micro UAS operational limitations and safety benefits.”

Finally, in order to encourage accountability and responsible use of UAS, the NMC urged the FAA to expedite a clear commonsense final small UAS rule and utilize stakeholders (such as those in the coalition) to “help better educate UAS operators, including hobbyists, regarding current regulations and best practices for safe UAS operation.”

Members of the News Media Coalition include: Advance Publications, Inc., A.H. Belo Corp., American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., The Associated Press, Capitol Broadcasting Co., Cox Media Group, LLC, Fusion Media Network, LLC, Gannett Co., Inc., Getty Images (US), Inc., National Press Photographers Association, NBCUniversal Media, LLC, The New York Times Company, Reuters, The E.W. Scripps Company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., TEGNA, Inc., and WP Company LLC.

Posted in drone, Drones, FAA, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Getty Images, National Press Photographers Association, New York TImes, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS, UAS, Washington Post | No Comments »

FAA Announces Proposed Drone Rules: will allow use of UAS under 55 lbs., under 500 ft; certification required

February 15th, 2015 by Alicia Calzada

Today the FAA proposed allowing drone flights within line of sight, during daylight hours only, and with a special operator’s certification. The FAA  announced its long-awaited proposed rules, for the regulation of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS, or sUAVs), commonly referred to as drones. The NPPA is reviewing the rules, and the entire text of the proposed rules are not yet available, but based on the initial information released by the FAA, the rules appear to be an overall positive development for photojournalists and will address safety while enabling photographers to use the technology with fewer onerous restrictions than were expected.

“While we still need to review the proposed rule in its entirety, we are very encouraged that the FAA has chosen to follow the commonsense and less burdensome  approach to its rulemaking that NPPA has been advocating for over the past few years,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, NPPA general counsel who was on today’s call with the FAA.

Under the proposed rules, sUAS flights will only be permitted during daylight hours, cannot go more than 500 feet above ground level, cannot be operated over any people who are not directly involved in the operation, must stay clear of other aircraft, and the UAS must remain within the line of unaided sight (no binoculars) of the operator or visual observer. However, there seems to be accommodation for the use of a visual observer in the rules. Remote cameras would not satisfy the visual-line-of-sight requirement but could be used as long as the UAS were still within the line of sight of the operator or observer.

NPPA president Mark Dolan commented, “the NPPA has been involved with this issue from the very beginning through our advocacy committee, which has consistently offered opinions and advice at every stage of the discussion. We are happy to see the FAA seems to have followed the spirit of that advice in taking a thoughtful and measured approach to the issue rather than take an extreme and restrictive stance, which can so often be the official reaction when faced with any type of new technology.” Dolan added that NPPA, “will continue to observe, and weigh in on, this issue as it moves through the public comment period of the FAA’s  rule-making process,” he added.

Under the proposal, the sUAS must weigh under 55 lbs. Pilots of small UAS, called operators, must be over 17; would be required to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved center; be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA); obtain a sUAS operator certificate which never expires (unless revoked), and pass a recurrent test every 24 months. An individual with a private pilot’s license will still need to obtain a sUAS operator certificate to pilot a sUAS. Once certified, the operator can pilot any type of UAS for commercial purposes, “so long as you are flying within the parameters of the rule, line-of-sight, etc.” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta this morning. The FAA has long considered photojournalism to be a “commercial” enterprise for the purposes of its rules on sUAS. Hobbyist’s use of sUAS will not require a certificate.

Operators will be required to conduct a pre-flight inspection to ensure that the small UAS is safe for operation, and must report to the FAA any accidents which result in injury or property damage within 10 days.

The proposed rules also considers the idea that there might be a “microUAS” category for UAS under 4.4 pounds “that would allow operations in Class G airspace, over people not involved in the operation, provided the operator certifies he or she has the requisite aeronautical knowledge to perform the operation.”

The rules were presented in a hastily announced, mid-holiday weekend press conference, and are further outlined in a press release. The NPPA cautions its members that these are proposed rules and as such those wishing to operate sUAS must still petition for a section 333 exemption, although that petition (unlike previously granted petitions which included a pilot’s certificate) would now most likely be approved following the guidelines in the new NPRM. “It is also important to remember that while these proposed rules address safety issues, today the President also signed a memorandum (similar to an executive order) ensuring that the government’s drone uses don’t violate the First Amendment,” Osterreicher said. “That memo also tasks the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with developing privacy and transparency rules for drone use,” Osterreicher added. The privacy issue is one that has been currently addressed by a patchwork of state legislation throughout the country.

The FAA will be accepting comments from the public for at least 60 days. Therefore the rules won’t go into effect until after the rulemaking period is over, which could still take another 2 years. The proposed rules are expected to be posted at this link later today: http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/recently_published/

 

Posted in broadcasting, drone, Drones, FAA, First Amendment, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, photojournalism, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS, UAS, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) | No Comments »

NPPA, Other Media Groups Submit Comments to FAA in Support of Exemptions for Use of sUAS

July 16th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today the NPPA filed comments with the FAA in support of petitions from a number of aerial photo and video production companies seeking exemptions to commercially operate small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS – 55lbs or less) for motion picture and television industry use. The NPPA also joined in the analysis submitted as part of the News Media Coalition’s Comments in Support of Video-Production Companies’ Petitions to the FAA for Section 333 Exemption. That Media Coalition includes: Advance Publications, Inc.; A.H. Belo Corp.; The Associated Press; Gannett Co., Inc.; Getty Images (US), Inc.; Gray Television, Inc.; NBCUniversal, Inc.; The New York Times Company; Scripps Media, Inc.; Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.; and WP Company LLC (d/b/a The Washington Post), represented by Charles D. Tobin and Christie N. Waltz of the Washington, DC law firm Holland & Knight, LLP. The additional comments by NPPA were submitted to reflect the specific concerns of our members and were drafted by NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher and Advocacy Chair Alicia Wagner Calzada, who is also an  attorney with Haynes and Boone, LLP.

As noted, the NPPA has an acute interest in helping the FAA properly expedite the integration of sUAS into the National Airspace System (“NAS”).  We also support exemptions by the FAA that would permit journalists, and in particular visual journalists, to use sUAS for newsgathering purposes. The NPPA reviewed the voluntary and self-imposed “limitations and conditions” proposed in the production companies’ petitions. And while they may be acceptable to those groups, we urged the FAA to decline to adopt or extend them as prerequisites for future exemptions or as future standards in its rulemaking. The NPPA acknowledged that some of those limitations and conditions might be acceptable, but expressed our concerns about others that we deemed to be impractical and which would impose an undue burden on sUAS use for newsgathering.

The NPPA continues to assert that sUAS use for newsgathering is not a “commercial use” and we expect to see tangible benefits if the current exemption requests are granted. Specifically, we would hope that NPPA will also be allowed to “facilitate” exemption petitions on behalf our membership in a similar manner to what has been achieved by the Motion Picture Association of America.

The NPPA also referenced in its comments and filed a copy of our paper written in support of sUAS for use in newsgathering, which also included results from a study we conducted on that subject.

 

Posted in drone, Drones, FAA, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, rulemaking, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS | No Comments »