PPA continues its work with UAS policymakers
Innovative technologies related to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly called drones, hold exciting prospects for the photography industry. Current FAA regulations, however, are a barricade for professional photographers. As PPA continues to work with policymakers, regulatory changes on the horizon could lead to a huge expansion of UAS photography in the coming year.
In February, the FAA proposed new rules for the operation of small UAS (under 55 pounds) for “non-hobby or non-recreational” purposes, which could make it easier for professional photographers to use drones in their work. If passed, these rules will allow UAS users to obtain an operator certificate through a knowledge test in lieu of the current requirement of a commercial pilot’s license. The proposed rules would also lessen the burden of the current setback requirement that keep UAS far removed from their photographic subjects.
The FAA is currently evaluating public comments made in response to the proposed rules and has indicated to PPA that they anticipate a final rule in June 2016.
One important aspect of the rule-making process is addressing the micro-drone issue. In the FAA’s rule proposal, there was consideration for a micro-UAS sub-classification. This accommodation would apply to extremely lightweight drones flown at very low altitude and slow airspeed. Because micro-UAS would pose a low safety risk to people and property, the FAA proposed more lenient procedures for obtaining certification and increased ability to fly in proximity to crowds. In its correspondence with the FAA and relevant congressional offices, PPA is encouraging the inclusion of the micro-UAS sub-classification in the final rule, as many professional photographers would be interested in operating micro-UAS for business purposes. The carve-out would reduce the burden of regulation while still designating important parameters for safe operation.
During PPA’s most recent advocacy trip to Washington, D.C., CEO David Trust and the PPA government affairs team attended a House Small Business Committee hearing on small business use of unmanned aircraft. Additionally, the PPA team met with members of the Committee and the UAS Integration Office within the FAA. PPA will continue communicating with these offices as well as additional relevant congressional personnel.
PPA is emphasizing to both Congress and the FAA that time is of the essence in passing a final rule. It’s imperative that professional photographers are able to use the technology available to achieve business goals and meet consumer demands. PPA places safety as a priority and urges photographers to use drones only within legal regulations. PPA expects UAS operation for professional photographers to become a safe and feasible option in the near future.