Last January, during the 2016 International CES, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the release of B4UFLY, its first mobile app designed to provide support for drone pilots. CommLead student Jacob Christensen put together a brief video overview of the app that can be seen below:
The app is designed to inform users when they are piloting a drone in a restricted zone by using information about the user’s location, as well as a quick reference for the current laws governing unmanned aerial systems (UAS) flying in the United States. The app is currently available on the iOS store and is in beta on Android. The FAA site for the app currently lists the following features for the app, along with a Q&A:
- A clear “status” indicator that immediately informs the operator about the current or planned location. For example, it shows flying in the Special Flight Rules Area around Washington, D.C. is prohibited.
- Information on the parameters that drive the status indicator
- A “Planner Mode” for future flights in different locations
- Informative, interactive maps with filtering options
- Links to other FAA UAS resources and regulatory information
The need for better regulation is particularly urgent. Interest in drones for recreational and commercial purposes has grown exponentially over the last few years, letting hobbyists and professionals take stunning aerial video and footage. Though drone technology has been readily available to the average consumer for some time, the legalities of owning and operating a drone remains something of a grey area. Unfortunately, not much has changed in two years.
Under current FAA law, anyone flying drones for any commercial use must have a valid pilot’s license, or must apply for a special exception, and there are no specific rules governing small UAS. Currently, all drones that weigh over 0.55 lbs and under 55 pounds are classified as small unmanned aircraft and must be registered online through an Aircraft Registry system.
The FAA is hoping to pass more drone regulations later this year, and the draft for proposed drone regulations can be viewed on their website. The proposed rules would give more flexibility to what circumstances drones could be operated and clearer guidelines for drone piloting, significantly streamlining the paperwork and approval process to operate a drone for non-recreational use.