College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

AerE department chair interviewed about drone guidelines

This month the Federal Aviation Administration released proposed guidelines for commercial unmanned aerial systems—commonly known as ‘drones.’

Rich Wlezien, chair of the Aerospace Engineering department at Iowa State University, says the current rules are so strict Iowa State students can’t even test the drones they’ve built in class because they pay ISU tuition, technically making it a commercial enterprise.

“We’d much rather have a usable set of rules that people can obey than rules that are so strict that everyone ignores them.”

Now the FAA has released proposed rules that would open up commercial opportunities with drones, for fields as diverse as journalism, agriculture and real estate.

Wlezien says the biggist hurdle is whether the FAA moving quick enough to enact the proposed regulations. But some pilots around the state are lukewarm on the current version of the regulations.

Ryan Guthridge is a pilot for Top Intel, based in Honey Creek, which offers aerial imaging services. He says the rules will most likely go through more development before they’re finalized.

“The newest rules are a little bit more lax than we originally thought. The FAA will do their due diligence and open it up for public commentary. What we see lately probably won’t be what we see when the final rules come out. The concern there being nothing replaces good quality training whether it’s drones or aircraft.”

The proposed rules include a requirement the drone stay below 500 feet and in sight of the operator.

On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Wlezien and Guthridge about the future of unmanned aerial systems, safety and privacy concerns, and how they might be used in the commercial sector. Van Lucas, co-owner and chief pilot of Agritech Systems, also joins the conversation.

This story was originally published by the Iowa Public Radio.