The Federal Aviation Administration today is publishing new proposed rules for "small unmanned aircraft systems" — commonly (but not entirely accurately) referred to as "drones" — that would require an operator certificate and the user to be at least 17 years old. The proposed rules also would dictate when and where and how such "unmanned aerial systems," such as (but not limited to) the type controlled by smartphones and tablets could be flown.

The broad strokes for platforms weighing less than 4 pounds:

  • Be older than 17 and pass a written test every two years.
  • The operator must be in visual contact with the aircraft without using cameras or binoculars.
  • No flying over people, unless they're the ones controlling the aircraft.
  • A 500-foot altitude limit.
  • Aircraft can't fly faster than 100 mph.
  • Other obvious rules such as not straying into airport flight paths or restricted airspace, or posing "a hazard to other aircraft, people or property."

More: Read Connectedly's review of the Parrot AR Drone Elite

The FAA also is proposing new rules for aircraft up to 55 pounds that would be involved in "non-recreational operations," which would seem to adversely affect the sort of aerial delivery Amazon is considering, as line of sight would hamper any sort of centralized distribution, even short range.

The FAA will be taking public comment on the proposed rules.

Source: FAA; complete summary