Although it appears that the FAA has not yet made Disney’s response to its latest round of questions public, it sent notification to the company yesterday advising that new regulations require the FAA to be delayed in responding to the original request. At issue is that the request was made as an exemption to Rule 333 under the now-ironically named ‘FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012,’ or FMRA. According to the notice, the portion of Rule 333 that governed the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) — or vehicles (UAVs) as the industry often refers them to as — was a stopgap until more permanent regulations were in place. Enter Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 107.
In short, Part 107 defines new rules for the operations of drones. Any planned activity that falls within these published guidelines is considered legal without further oversight from the FAA. Unfortunately for Disney, Part 107 covers a couple of areas that could potentially interfere with their plans to use choreographed drones as part of nightly entertainment at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. The biggest hurdles are that Part 107 requires all drone operation to take place during the daytime and the drones cannot be autonomous in that they are their movements are not pre-programmed and/or controlled by on board computers. Additionally, while drones may be operated by non-licensed pilots, a licensed pilot must be made available and must be able to take control of any drone in the event it’s necessary.
All of these obstacles, however, can be overcome by obtaining a waiver. According to the FAA’s notice, they will automatically consider the Rule 33 exemption request as a request for a waiver under Part 107 and have promised a final response within 60 days as of June 22, 2016.