Colleges and universities across the country are finding new and innovative ways to use drones in the classroom. While speaking at the AUVSI annual conference in New Orleans this morning, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the release of a new Legal Interpretation that will expand the scope of permissible unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations by students and educational institutions.
Yesterday we reported on the FAA’s policy shift relating to flights near people. The FAA last week made another quiet change that implicates beyond line of sight operations. While the demand for UAS continues to grow, the FAA’s current requirement that the UAS only be operated within visual line-of-sight of the operator limits the full potential of UAS for many commercial uses. Some of the most promising commercial UAS applications—precision agriculture, powerline inspections, and railroad inspections, to name just a few—necessitate flights beyond visual line-of-sight (“BVLOS”) of the operator to be efficient. “Line-of-sight” flight requires that the pilot can visually see the UAS at all times during the operation, unless another person acting as a visual observer maintains constant visual contact with the UAS.