Donan helps decipher what the new FAA regulations mean for you

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its much anticipated new regulations on June 21, 2016, which considerably reduced the requirements for operating UAVs during forensic investigations.  The FAA’s new regulatory framework for small unmanned aerial systems includes changes to the requirement for Visual Observers (VOs) during operations and permissions required prior to flights.

“Donan has been anticipating the new rules for the past year and we have been working on ways to adapt our capabilities to stay ahead of the technology curve,” said Matt Kenney, Donan Technical Program Director. “Our R&D efforts have been focused on preparing for the large scale operations now possible under these new regulations. Our most recent partnership with DataWing is a great example of our strategic efforts to bring a scalable solution as the industry continues to innovate.” Kenney offered his analysis last year in an article written for Property Casualty 360. Read it here.

To help decipher what the new rules may mean for you, Donan has compiled the top three FAA regulation changes that will impact the use of UAVs in forensic investigations:

  1. May not operate directly over any persons not involved in the operation.

Prior to the regulation change, operators were required to have permission from the owner of any vehicle, structure, or vessel within 500 feet of the proposed flight and could not fly within 500 feet of any persons not directly involved in the operation.

How Donan can help: Donan can now utilize its UAV services to fly in more locations, minimizing the amount of approvals necessary to conduct property investigations with the aid of UAVs. With our growing national network of pilots, we can deploy qualified operators quickly and at competitive prices. Request a quote today at

  1. UAV operator must pass a written FAA exam in order to obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate.

Previous regulations required operators to have a pilot’s license for manned aircraft. The process for obtaining a traditional manned pilot license is costly and requires a considerable amount of practical flying time along with written tests. The updated regulation effectively creates a new drone certification process, where operators are only required to pass a written exam.

How Donan can help: For customers wanting to operate UAVs themselves rather than outsourcing these services, Donan and DataWing will offer consulting and training services to assist setting up their own internal drone program. Find out more at

  1. May use a Visual Observer (VO), but not required – can now conduct UAV operations with one person.

Historically, a visual observer was needed to assist in operations, which meant two people were required at all times – the VO and the pilot. The new regulations no longer require a VO during an operation.

How Donan can help: Reducing the required flight crew for a UAV inspection lowers the cost of the service and allows more professionals to be available for other tasks. Find out more about our drone services at

Notable FAA requirements that are staying the same

  • At all times during a flight the small unmanned aircraft must remain within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the operator, meaning it must be close enough for the operator to see the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs
  • The sUAS must be registered with the FAA prior to flight and the aircraft must be marked with the registration #
  • Daylight-only operations.
  • Maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level
  • Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required air traffic control (ATC) permission.

Donan has recently partnered with DataWing, a national UAS services company based in San Antonio, Texas, to provide nationwide UAV inspection services with fast turnaround times and competitive pricing. This partnership will combine Donan’s expertise in property insurance forensic investigations with DataWing’s vast knowledge of drone technology and aviation training, to deliver customized UAV solutions to insurance customers coast-to-coast. The two companies have extensive experience with a variety of UAV applications and knowledge of the newly released FAA rules and all other regulations in order to help clients navigate the changing landscape of our industry. Read more about the partnership here.

Please share this infographic illustrating all these points

UAV FAA Change Infographic

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