A photography teacher flies a drone with high school students May 15 near Cahors in southern France. / Eric Cabanis, AFP/Getty Images
WASHINGTON â?? The Federal Aviation Administration outlined rules Monday for model-aircraft pilots to fly safely, to avoid hazards near airports or crowds, as the agency develops comprehensive rules for commercial drones.
The hobbyist rules to be published in the Federal Register take effect immediately. The rules say pilots must keep their drones within sight, avoid other aircraft and notify air-traffic control when flying within 5 miles of an airport. The rules still don't allow commercial drone flights.
"We want people who fly model aircraft for recreation to enjoy their hobby â?? but to enjoy it safely," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.
The rules essentially distinguish recreational drone pilots from those seeking FAA approval for commercial flights or larger aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds.
Hobbyists are allowed to fly while the FAA develops rules for commercial flights, such as moviemakers or real-estate agents, under a congressional deadline of September 2015.
The subject is contentious because of safety and privacy concerns. For example, the National Park Service banned all drones in its 401 parks and memorials on Friday, citing concerns about disturbing visitors and animals.
But the industry has been eager for rules for commercial drones.
The latest rules Monday for hobbyists come after recent incidents the agency said involved the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving crowds of people:
â?¢A commercial drone pilot is fighting a $10,000 FAA fine in a case on appeal to the National Transportation Safety Board.
â?¢A regional pilot for a US Airways affiliate reported a near-collision with a drone in March while approaching the Tallahassee, Fla., airport.
â?¢A drone operated by an unidentified pilot fell into the crowd at a Virginia bull run in August 2013.
"We have a mandate to protect the American people in the air and on the ground, and the public expects us to carry out that mission," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said.
Although the hobbyist rules take effect immediately, the FAA will collect comments about them for 30 days.
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