Pushed by media reports after the accidental posting of some elements of its plans, the FAA on Sunday released its proposed rules for the commercial use of drones, which would include newsgathering by media organizations. Reaction has been growing over the proposal, which must go through a period of public comment and potential revisions before being put into effect, which could take a year or more.
The Associated Press reported on the release of the proposed rules. You can read the FAA's news release, an overview of the proposed rules and the agency's fact sheet on unmanned aerial systems.
Matt Waite, founder of the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says there is still a long timeline yet to play out before most news organizations will be able to use unmanned aircraft. He calls the proposed rules "surprisingly flexible," but warns there are more voices to be heard from, including lawmakers at the local, state and fedaral levels considering privacy-related laws. In particular, he cautions that states are rushing to fill the vacuum left by a lack of federal guidance, which could lead to significant restrictions, especially for journalists.
Poynter's Al Tompkins outlines the newly-proposed rules, including the lack of requirement for users to hold a pilot's license, which some thought might be included. Instead, operators would need a TSA background check and an FAA certificate, and register their aircraft. He also talks about how drones would be limited in speed and altitude.
One potential user left out of the proposed rules is Amazon. As Gizmodo explains, rules requiring drones to be flown within the sight of the operator would not allow the online retailer's proposed package delivery service.
In the Washington Post, Larry Downes calls the proposed rules, "too litte, too late." He points out that the FAA was supposed to have developed rules in 2011 and has been ordered by Congress to integrate commercial drones into U.S. airspace by 2015, a deadline he says they are almost certain to miss. Also in the Post, Matt McFarland offers a quick rundown of the good and the bad in the proposed rules.
In the meantime, a coalition of drone groups in partnership with the FAA offers guidance for recreational users at: knowbeforeyoufly.org