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 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.
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: