FAA Acts to Protect Air Users from Drones and Holiday Light Displays

To advance public safety of the largest segment of drone operations, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced the organizations selected to advise the agency in developing test administration requirements for the recreational Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) aeronautical knowledge and safety test.

Last month, aerial wildfire operations were halted in California when drones – apparently trying to photograph or video the fire below – were flown by the public, hindering the safety of the firefighting helicopters. Drones can also cause significant problems for commercial aircraft and airport operations.

A law passed in 2018 requires that recreational drone flyers pass an online aeronautical knowledge and safety test and carry proof of test passage with them while operating a drone. There are more than one million FAA registered recreational drone flyers. To ensure that flight operations are conducted safely, the FAA is developing a test to increase the aeronautical knowledge of recreational drone flyers.

On September 17, the FAA issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking to work with stakeholders on the administration of a new aeronautical knowledge test for recreational drone flyers. Based on their responses to the RFI, the organizations below were selected to advise the agency in developing the test administration process.

  • Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Drone Launch Academy Southeastern University
  • Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC)
  • DJI
  • Horizon Hobby, LLC.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Coach
  • King Schools
  • Unmanned Safety Institute
  • First Person View (FPV) Freedom Coalition
  • Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
  • Academy of Model Aeronautics
  • Drone Racing League

These organizations will make recommendations to the FAA on the safety test administration requirements. From these recommendations, the FAA will develop the final requirements that potential test administrators must meet. These requirements, and any associated selection criteria for test administrators will be announced on FAA.gov.

The test must be administered electronically by the FAA, community-based organizations, or others designated by the FAA. The FAA’s objective is to work with third party entities to allow them to administer the knowledge training and test content on various platforms for the recreational flyer community.

Section 44809 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (PDF) requires new conditions to operate recreational drones. Many drones can be flown today with minimal training or knowledge of aviation rules or safety practices. The statute provided an opportunity to educate recreational flyers on UAS safety and to bring new flyers into the existing aviation safety culture.

Meanwhile, FAA has issued a warning that holiday laser-light displays aimed at houses become potentially dangerous when aimed into the sky.

The agency receives reports each year from pilots who are distracted or temporarily blinded by residential laser-light displays. This creates a serious safety risk to pilots and their passengers flying overhead.

The extremely concentrated beams of laser lights reach much farther than might be realized. People with laser-light displays that affect pilots will be asked to adjust them or turn them off. A refusal to do so could lead to a civil penalty.

The warning comes as laser strikes against aircraft continue to increase. From January 1 to November 23 this year the FAA recorded 5,486 laser incidents, up from the 4,949 incidents recorded during the same period last year.

Intentionally aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety risk and violates federal law. The FAA works with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to pursue civil and criminal penalties against individuals who purposely aim a laser at an aircraft. The agency may impose civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. Civil penalties of up to $30,800 have been imposed by the FAA against individuals for multiple laser incidents.

Read more at FAA

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