WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration will announce long awaited rules Sunday governing how Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, often called drones, will be legally allowed to fly in the United States for business purposes.
Currently, all commercial remote controlled aircraft are banned, unless a specific, rare exception is obtained from the FAA and operators follow a lengthy list of rules.
Only a handful of those exemptions have been granted since the first was awarded to energy giant BP and UAV manufacturer AeroVironment in June for aerial surveys in Alaska.
“These surveys on Alaska’s North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a news release at the time. “The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing.”
Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will announce the new rules during a conference call for reporters.
One of the most significant challenges facing regulators is how to keep the small drones away from larger aircraft with people on board.
There have been several close calls where pilots of commercial planes came within feet of UAVs.
“We saw a drone, a drone aircraft,” an Alitalia pilot radioed in March as he came in for a landing at JFK airport in New York.
The UAV came within 200 feet of the jetliner as it was flying at 1,750 feet, three miles from the runway, according to the FBI.
It’s unclear how complicated the new requirements for commercial drone use will be. The FAA would not provide details Saturday evening.
An apparently prematurely-posted FAA document led some drone advocates to believe they will be less burdensome than what is now required of the few operators who received exemptions.
On January 5, Douglas Trudeau became the first realtor to obtain an FAA exception to fly a drone to shoot video of houses for sale, but he was required to follow 33 detailed restrictions laid out in a 26 page letter.
To legally fly his UAV ,Trudeau must have a regular pilots license, pass an aviation medical check, be assisted by a spotter, request permission two days in advance, and limit flights to less than 35 mph and below 300 feet.
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