On October 5th, 2018, President Trump signed The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, legislation aimed at establishing new conditions for recreational drone use, among other things. The Act is full of extensive drone-related and non-drone related changes, which means that the way you fly recreational drones, whether it be as a hobby or for educational purposes (unless you are licensed under Part 107), is going to change in the next year.
A lot of these changes are still in the pipeline — the “how” of the new laws still needs to be worked out by the FAA — but below, we’ve outlined some of the heavy hitters to the drone industry.
- The Act secured funding for the FAA through the year 2023
This is a massive win for the Federal Aviation Administration. As the first five-year bill passed since the 1980s, securing funding for the FAA ensures the continued refinement of legislation as the government agency’s drone laws continue to evolve alongside the technology. With the mission to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world, securing this funding ensures the continuation of upkeep with everything from Airports to Security and Hazardous Materials Safety.
- The FAA has been given one year to update existing drone delivery regulations
As summarized by Zacc Dukowitz of UAV Coach, “In SEC. 348 of the bill, the FAA is given one year to update existing regulations to authorize the carriage of property by operators of small UAS for compensation or hire. They will have to create a certification process for UAS operators who want to carry/deliver property for compensation or hire.” With US Drone Integration Pilot Program sites across the country already working through the logistics of opening up the air for more UAVs, this legislative mandate is great news for Amazon, FedEx and all of us waiting for our first drone pizza delivery.
- The FAA must compose a plan for fully operational UAS traffic management
“SEC. 376 of the bill requests the FAA to compose a plan for full operational capability of UAS traffic management with NASA and UAS industry stakeholders. They shall develop a plan to allow the implementation of UTM services that expand operations beyond visual line of sight while maintaining the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016. This section also outlines requirements for the completion of the UTM System Pilot Program (Dukowitz).” With regulatory burdens listed as the number one concern facing the growth of the drone industry, this update is huge for the future of commercial drone applications. From agriculture and search and rescue to utility inspection and field research, these laws will place the United States at the forefront of this type of UAS management, being one of the few countries in the world to begin the legislative process.
For educators, student pilots and drone programs, the new legislation is bringing about a lot of changes. Here is how the FAA Reauthorization Act is going to impact education.
- The Act repeals Section 336, The Special Rule for Model Aircraft
Section 336 was a provision which separated recreational drone pilots from those flying for commercial reasons. With its repeal, recreational pilots will now be required to follow most, if not all, of the registrational regulations and specific requirements of commercial pilots. It is assumed that this repeal was due to, in part, the need for clear regulations, and under the new legislation, the FAA will now view all drones under a similar regulatory lens.
Right now, it isn’t clear when, or exactly what, the new requirements will be implemented, but as of now, according to the FAA, the latest requirements of recreational or hobbyist drone pilots are to:
- Fly for hobby or recreation only
- Register all model aircraft (as opposed to just registering as a pilot)
- Fly within visual line-of-sight
- Follow community-based safety guidelines and fly within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization (like the one provided by the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA))
- Fly a drone under 55 lbs. unless certified by a community-based organization
- Never fly near other aircraft
Never fly near emergency response efforts
Along with these changes, recreational pilots will be required to pass a Drone Knowledge Test. While it isn’t mentioned on their list of immediate changes, the FAA has stated that “the Reauthorization Act cannot be fully implemented immediately, … Updated direction and guidance will be provided as the FAA implements this new legislation.”
So while the exact details on the knowledge test have not been smoothed out, the FAA is expecting the test to be fully implemented within six months.
If you are licensed under Part 107, these new knowledge test laws do not apply to you.
If you are an educator, you can earn your Part 107 license and your students will be able to legally fly under your supervision without having to pass the new test themselves. Early this year, PCS Edventures partnered with Drone Pilot Ground School, an online test prep course for commercial drone pilots looking to pass the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test for a Remote Pilot Certificate.
We offer a first-rate, comprehensive curriculum created in partnership with a Gold Seal Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and former Chief Pilot of a Part 141 Flight School. Our course covers all 127 knowledge concepts that the FAA requires drone pilots to learn.
Normally a $299 course, Drone Pilot Ground School is available to educators for $75 off using the PCS Edventures affiliate link. Visit https://www.dronepilotgroundschool.com/?affcode=23044_crp-uif7&coupon=STEM75 for more information.
UAV Coach also offers student scholarship opportunities for aspiring commercial drone pilots.
- Unlimited number of scholarships available, accepted on a rolling, case-by-case basis
- The first 100 scholarship applicants who finish their studying and take the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test will also have their FAA test fee ($150) covered by the scholarship
- Applicants must be at least 16 years old, currently enrolled in high school and live in the US
- Visit https://www.dronepilotgroundschool.com/scholarship/ for more information
- Higher education drone use is now considered recreational
By opening recreational drone use to collegiate and other higher education avenues, expect to see new drone learning and vocational pathways emerging from the legislation. Currently, UAVs used for both education and research are considered recreational for institutions of higher education.
- Co-observers can meet the line-of-sight requirement for recreational pilots
The previous laws were ambiguous in these regards, but with the new clarifications, First-Person View (FPV) pilots are in the clear if they have a co-pilot spotting alongside them.
- Airport notification is now based on FAA airspace classification
The previous laws required pilots to notify air traffic control if they were flying within 5 miles of an airport, but the new legislation follows the same idea of the FAA viewing all drones in a similar way. Exactly how to notify airports according to the new drone classifications has yet to be decided, so keep an eye out for when this new information will be available.
To view The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 in its entirety, visit https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20180924/HR302.pdf
As the new legislation begins to be implemented and pilots everywhere scramble to make sure they’re flying legally, we want you to know that PCS Edventures is here to help. As we continue to learn more about the changing drone landscape, PCS Edventures will continue to update Droneology, and provide news, guidelines and support to all of our Ready, Set, Drone! and Discover Drones drone pilots. As the FAA says, for now, continue flying as you have been, but be prepared for the legislative changes coming to recreational drone flight.
If you have any questions about the new legislation, feel free to contact us today at (800) 429-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dukowitz, Z. (2018, October 10). New FAA Reauthorization Act Has Big Implications for Hobbyist Drone Pilots. Retrieved October 17, 2018, from https://uavcoach.com/reauthorization-hobbyists/
Federal Aviation Administration. (2018, April 23). About FAA. Retrieved October 17, 2018, from https://www.faa.gov/about/