The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is eyeing new rules and a pilot project to allow drones to fly overnight and over people without waivers under certain conditions, according to an announcement by U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) Secretary Elaine Chao.
On Dec. 14 of last year, there were nearly 1.3 million registered drones and more than 116,000 registered drone operators in the United States.
“Drones are well on their way to mainstream deployment,” Chao said. “They are widely used by hobbyists, by first responders, in rescue and recovery efforts, and to inspect infrastructure.”
The proposed changes to Part 107 would attempt to balance the need to mitigate safety risks without inhibiting technological and operational advances, according to the DoT.
“Let us note that the Department is keenly aware that there are legitimate public concerns about drones, concerning safety, security and privacy,” Chao said. “Recent events overseas have underscored concerns about the potential for drones to disrupt aviation and the national airspace.”
As a result, the DoT will launch two initiatives to address drone safety and national security, soliciting recommendations to reduce the risks of integrating drones into the national airspace.
A pilot project will take place through September 2019 to develop and demonstrate a traffic management system to safely integrate drone flights within the nation’s airspace system. Also, the pilot project will gather data for future rulemakings.
Additionally, the DoT awarded three contracts to commercial service entities to develop technology to provide flight planning, communications, separation and weather services for these drones, which will operate under 400 feet.