WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department has sent two proposed rules to the White House to regulate the increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles, the agency said on Tuesday as it prepared to unveil the winners of new drone pilot projects.
One of the new rules would allow drones to fly over people while the other would allow for remote identification and tracking of unmanned aircraft in flight. After both are formally proposed, it would take months or even more than a year before they are finalized.
Current rules prohibit nighttime drone flights or operations over people without a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA has no requirements or voluntary standards for electrically broadcasting information to identify an unmanned aircraft.
The FAA has said regulations are necessary to protect the public and the National Airspace System from bad actors or errant hobbyists. Several incidents around major airports have involved drones getting close to aircraft.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in December a September collision between a small civilian drone and a U.S. Army helicopter was caused by the drone operator’s failure to see the helicopter because he was intentionally flying the drone out of visual range.
The helicopter landed safely but a 1-1/2 inch (3.8 cm) dent was found on the leading edge of one of its four main rotor blades and parts of the drone were found lodged in its engine oil cooler fan.
Later on Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will unveil the winners for 10 drone projects involving cities, universities, an Indian tribe, counties and states. Reuters reported Tuesday that major technology and aerospace companies including Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Intel Corp, Qualcomm Inc and Airbus SE are vying to take part in the new slate of drone tests.
The wide interest in the U.S. initiative, launched by President Donald Trump last year, underscores the desire of a broad range of companies to have a say in how the fledgling industry is regulated and ultimately win authority to operate drones for purposes ranging from package delivery to crop inspection.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Richard Chang