Public safety agencies can now get expedited permission to fly drones weighing up to 25 pounds in U.S. airspace, according to new rules approved Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The size of the craft was the most significant change made by the FAA in responding to a congressional mandate to integrate unmanned aviation vehicles into domestic airspace. In February, Congress passed legislation calling on the FAA to expedite approval for law enforcement and first responder agencies that want to use drones smaller than 4.4 pounds.
FAA officials decided to boost the size of the largest permissible public safety drone after meeting with federal, state and local law enforcement representatives, a spokesman said. The officials “determined that small unmanned aircraft systems under 25 pounds would be the most cost-effective, easiest to manage and overall most appropriate to carry out the various first responder missions.”
The decision opens up the market to American drone manufacturers seeking customers in the public safety sector, according to Ben Gielow, general counsel for Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group. An industry survey of drones under 4.4 pounds found 79 different models for sale by 54 companies, Gielow said. Now public safety agencies shopping for North American-made drones to fit the FAA regulations will be able to choose from 146 models manufactured by 69 different companies. The larger drones will be able to carry more sensors to improve “situational awareness,” he said.
Smaller = more difficult to see, more prone to abuse: aka subverting the 1st Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech-writing via subverting the 4th Amendment guarantee against un-legitimately reasonable searches.
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