Russia's New Drone Rules Look A Lot Like America's

Imitation is the sincerest form of global leadership

Vladimir Putin Eyes A Drone

Vladimir Putin Eyes A Drone

Image by author, from Russian Federation photo and Zimin.V.G. via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

Cheap drones are a worldwide phenomenon, and governments across the globe are struggling to adapt to the small unmanned flying machines. In the United States, the FAA recently required that every drone over half a pound be registered by February 19th. Last week, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a bill regulating drones, too. With almost the same regulations as America.

The law is an amendment to Russia's Air Code. Here's how Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news organization, describes it:

The law introduces norms on certification and registration of drones and specifies requirements on the security of their flights. All the drones with maximum take-off weight of 0.55 pounds should be registered. According to the explanatory note to the law, the bill aims to provide legal basis for usage of UAVs to meet the requirements of different economic sectors and to solve different tasks in the sphere of security and defense.

RT, a different media organization owned by the Russian government, says this about the rules:

According to the new act, which comes into force at the end of March 2016, people or companies who own and use unmanned aircraft systems (also known as drones) must also appoint a crew and a commander responsible for flight safety.

In addition, users of registered drones will have to write a flight plan and submit it to the regional body that coordinates air traffic. Just as with conventional piloted aircraft, once the flight plan is agreed the crew must follow it, with the right to conduct an emergency landing only in cases when public safety is under threat.

The 0.55 pounds (or 250 grams) weight registration threshold for drones is identical in both the Russian and American drone registration laws. Russian law also establishes a minimum of a two-person crew for the drone, which is a step further than the American law. This crew consists of a pilot and an observer, whose job is to watch the drone in flight. The drone pilot has to file flight information, but is allowed to deviate from the flight plan as circumstance requires, so long as they notify the relevant authorities. In addition, the law requires that drone pilots prioritize the safety of manned aircraft.

These drone laws were first introduced in March of 2015. The first draft of the Russian rules required separate and more extensive authorization than simple registration for drones heavier than 66 pounds, or 30 kilograms. The FAA published their new rules for drones on December 14th, 2015, and the second draft of the Russian rules from December 18th instead adopted the American half pound, or 250 gram, weight threshold for basic registration.

The half-pound threshold isn't yet an international rule for drone regulation. Canada, instead, groups drones into three categories, with the threshold for small, registration-exempt drones set at roughly 4.5 pounds, or kilograms. That's the same threshold many model airplane enthusiasts in the United States hoped the FAA would adopt, instead of the stricter half-pound limit. Instead, the FAA went with very small drones--and where the FAA goes, it appears some of the world will follow.