The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is hosting its annual event in New Orleans this week, and as part of the festivities, FAA administrator Michael Huerta made a few key announcements. First, Huerta revealed that the agency would relax regulations on who can fly drones. Students and instructors will no longer need a Section 333 exemption or other authorization to fly a UAV for “educational and research purposes.” As long those eager learners have to do is abide by the guidelines for using model aircraft, they’ll be in the clear.
Huerta also announced that the FAA was forming an advisory committee to lend a hand with “key unmanned aircraft integration issues.” While the agency has setup temporary panels to offer advice on drones, this group will be more permanent, and the so-called Drone Advisory Council will be led by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. As added extra for the announcement, Intel showed off the first FAA-approved drone swarm with a light show that featured a fleet of 100 tiny aircraft in California. What’s more, all of those machines were controlled by a single pilot. If that sounds familiar, Intel touted its world record for the most drones piloted by a single person back at CES. That record-setting demonstration was used for a light show as well.
Regulations for piloting drones aren’t just being relaxed for education. Huerta said revised rules for the general population this year, including changes to the guidelines for commercial flight as well. Those updates could include allowing a single pilot to fly a drone solo and the ability to take it above the current 400-foot ceiling to a max of 500 feet. Flying a drone will no longer require a full pilot’s license either, but instead those controlling the UAVs will have to pass a general aeronautical knowledge test every two years. The FAA announced last month that it’s also looking into rules that allow for flying drones over crowds, focusing on the weight of the aircraft and accident risks to determine those limits.