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Send in the Drones: How New UAS Regulations Could Benefit Cattlemen By Thaddeus R. Lightfoot, Partner, Dorsey and Whitney LLP C ommercial uses for drones, also known as unmanned air- craft systems (UAS), abound. From handling dangerous inspections to surveying land to collecting soil and crop data for precision agriculture, drones can be extraordinarily help- ful. However, safety concerns have hindered widespread commercial use, at least until now. New regulations now clear the way for American busi- nesses, including cattle producers and agricultural interests, to benefit from the many commercial uses for drones. The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) long-awaited regulations, known as Part 107, for non-hobbyist use of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) took effect on Aug. 29, 2016. Since 2012, FAA has been working to establish a regulatory structure to allow for a wider use of sUAS for commercial purposes. The regulations, codified at Part 107 of Chapter 14 of the Code of Federal Regula- tions, represent a major milestone. Only 20,000 drones are in commercial op- eration right now but with the Part 107 regulations, FAA predicts 600,000 may be in commercial use within one year. The regulations should allow operators greater flexibility to use sUAS for routine activities without requiring case-by-case prior review and approval by FAA. The regulations also allow operators to ap- proach FAA on a case-by-case basis to relax or remove certain Part 107 restric- tions on the operation of sUAS. Before 2012, FAA considered all drones to be civil aircraft, and all federal aviation regulations applied to drone operations in the National Airspace System (NAS) without regard to the size of the UAS or the altitude at which it was flying. Congress gives FAA the au- 36 Nebraska Cattleman The regulations should allow operators greater flexibility to use sUAS for routine activities without requiring case- by-case prior review and approval by FAA. thority to regulate airspace use and air traffic control in the United States. FAA regulates the flight of all civil aircraft in the NAS. The NAS includes six classes of airspace in the United States, extending from a few feet above ground level to an altitude of 60,000 feet. In 2012, Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Section 336 of the Act exempted from FAA regulation model aircraft weigh- ing not more than 55 pounds and flown strictly for hobby or recreational use, so long as the model aircraft is not flown within five miles of an airport. But FAA interprets the hobby exemp- tion narrowly and considers any flight of an aircraft, including a sUAS, for a direct or indirect benefit to be a com- mercial use. To address commercial uses, Section 333 of the Act directed FAA to set expedited operational authorization requirements for sUAS operations in the NAS and undertake a rulemaking allowing commercial sUAS operation. In 2014, FAA established a process allowing commercial sUAS to operate after obtaining a Section 333 exemption, but obtaining an exemp- November 2016 tion involved a lengthy and compli- cated case-by-case application process. The Part 107 rules establish a much less complex regulatory framework al- lowing for routine commercial use of certain sUAS today while maintaining flexibility to accommodate future tech- nological innovations. The regulations create a new type of pilot, known as the remote pilot in command. All opera- tions of drones under Part 107 must be by a person holding a remote pilot in command certificate or by a person under the direct supervision of another person holding such a certificate. To obtain the certificate, a person must pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge test- ing center, undergo a vetting process with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and be at least 16 years old. Persons holding a Part 61 pilot certificate who have completed a flight review in the past 24 months, other than student pilots, may obtain a re- mote pilot in command certification after taking an on-line training course CONTINUED ON PAGE 38