The U.S. Department of Transportation has developed new rules that stand to unlock all sorts of unique drone photos. Newly proposed rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation will allow flights over crowds and at night, subject to safety precautions. Currently, the FAA prohibits civilian drone flights over groups, and requires operators to keep the drone in visual range, below 400 feet. Furthermore, large areas around airports, helipads, and other restricted flight areas are off limits. These rules aren’t expected change.
Operators of small drones, like DJI’s Phantom and Mavic lines, are expected to fall into a middle category, where they can operate over individuals with safety modifications, like padding and rotor guards. Given the very light regulation of drones under a half pound, manufacturers would be incentivized to offer a very lightweight model, capable of operating under the least regulation.
Night flights will also be allowed, but will require special training, as well as requiring the drone be equipped with long range visibility lighting.
All modifications to the rules seem to hinge on a proposed rule that would require drones to broadcast an ID number and position, to enable government tracking. This rule hasn’t yet been formalized, pushing these new rules further into the future.
These regulations come at an interesting time, as a serious disruption at Gatwick airport was believed to have been caused by a drone flight. The regulatory environment around drones has been unclear for a number of years, and many operators aren’t aware of, or do not follow every rule currently on the books. The test for official licensing for commercial operation is time consuming, considering that it subjects operators to the same rules that hobbyists are already expected to follow.
While the rules haven’t been updated yet, the proposed changes will allow the creation of a number of interesting shots, including closer photos of individuals, and points of interest at night.
Lead image by Lance Asper via Unsplash