Construction work has taken to the skies. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or what we often refer to as drones, are proving useful for a variety of construction tasks—from surveying sites, to monitoring and documenting job progress, to creating snazzy marketing videos.
But if you’re considering using a drone in your construction business, or already are, you need to be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding their use or be subject to some stiff penalties. Legally you can fly a UAS for business purposes only with consent from the Federal Aviation Association (FAA). The current FAA approval process requires you to:
- Apply for a Section 333 exemption from the FAA, and
- Submit a civil Certificate of Authorization (COA). Note that a “blanket” COA is automatically granted to those with Section 333 exemption if the drone is under 55 pounds and is used within specified parameters.
Today’s application process is paper-intensive and can take several months to get approval. But faster, less complex UAS registration is expected soon. In December 2015, the FAA announced a new on-line registration for hobbyists who use small airborne drones. A new online registration for commercially-used drones should be in place this coming spring.
As with any compliance concern, consult your lawyer about your use of drones to assure you are covered legally. It’s also a good idea to check in with your insurance provider. If you happened to see champion skier Marcel Hirscher’s close escape from a falling drone, you understand the potential risk these otherwise helpful devices can pose.
For more information about drone registration and compliance, visit these key FAA sites: