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FAA considers easing restrictions of small commercial drones flying over cities

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The Federal Aviation Administration is setting up an aviation rulemaking committee – made up of industry stakeholders – that will consider easing restrictions on small commercial drones flying over groups of people "not directly involved in the operation of the aircraft," such as sporting events and urban areas.

In February 2015 the FAA sought to establish a "micro" classification for drones weighing under 4.4 lbs and made of materials that give or break under pressure, meaning they wouldn't pose a threat of harm to passerby below, the Aviation Rulemaking Committee Charter [.pdf] explained. However, after reviewing comments collected during the open commenting period, the FAA did not follow through with establishing the micro classification.

This new committee will continue that conversation and prepare recommendations for the FAA. Members will include Google, Intel and GoPro, according to a report by CNBC. After reviewing those recommendations, the FAA will draft its own rulemaking proposal.

The FAA noted that the members of this committee will be made up of drone manufacturers and operators, consensus-standards organizations, researchers and academics.

As a result of the committee's work, drone users could find it easier to use drones in news reporting, traffic monitoring, search and rescue, and other areas. Of course, this leaves open the debate of privacy, which has been no small issue when talking about drones and drone capabilities.

The committee – which will be co-chaired by Earl Lawrence, the director of the FAA's UAS Integration Office, and Nancy Egan, general counsel from 3D Robotics – will begin work in March and issue a final report to the FAA by April 1.

This committee seems to be similar to the drone registration task force, which came together last October to offer recommendations on a drone registration process. After reviewing their recommendations, the FAA set up a drone operator registration system.

For more: 
- read the press release
- check out the committee charter [.pdf]

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