New FAA regulations announced this past week require commercial drone pilots to undergo a criminal background check prior to legally operating aircraft in US airspace. On June 21, the FAA finalized its rules regulating how unmanned aircraft are operated across America.
The new rules specifically target commercial drones under 55 pounds, a category that the FAA has labeled as Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS).
Any pilots of sUAS drones must receive a Security Threat Assessment (STA) background test from the TSA before they are allowed to operate in US airspace.
The FAA describes the screening as part of the certification process. Background checks are expected to take up to 7 days, although the entire certification process lasts between 6 to 8 weeks.
Drone Pilots Will Go Through The Same Screening Criteria Used For Airline Pilots And Airport Security
One of the key parts of these new regulations is that drone pilots must submit to the same background check criteria used to screen pilots and airport security personnel.
In a statement, the FAA said that they defer to the TSA’s established screening requirements. Those screening requirements are totally secret, but include things like an individual’s criminal record:
“The FAA defers to TSA’s established STA, and TSA’s determination of what factors, such as items contained within an individual’s criminal record, will rise to the level of disqualification for a remote pilot certificate,” explains the FAA rules.
Having a criminal record isn’t an immediate cause for removal of a license. However, certain items within that criminal record can prompt license removal.
Interestingly enough, those TSA screening criteria are the same criteria used to put individuals on terrorist watch lists. Obviously, there’s a lot of controversy over the effectiveness of terrorist watch lists – which has made some drone pilots worry about being flagged on a background check for no apparent reason.
Why These New Regulations Are A Big Deal
You may think, “Hey, a lot of people have to undergo background checks prior to getting a job. What’s the big deal about requiring drone pilots to do the same thing?”
After all, nurses, government personnel, and truck drivers who carry hazardous materials all have to undergo background checks prior to beginning a job.
The key thing with these new regulations is that the FAA is deferring judgement on drone pilots to the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security. As Vice explains, that “may irk pilots leery of the agency’s vague and often-controversial policies.”
What Happens If You Fail A Background Check?
What happens if you’re a drone pilot and fail a background check? Well, the FAA claims they provide “a substantial amount of due process to individuals who believe that they improperly failed an STA.”
Part of that due process is receiving a notice from the TSA after they’ve reviewed your application. At this point, you have the opportunity to appeal before an administrative law judge, which is basically a low-level court officer appointed by the government to hear complaints regarding government agencies.
Check your Criminal Record Today and Make Sure You Can Fly a Drone
Are you unsure what’s on your criminal record? Worried there might be some mistaken bit of information on your record? Check your criminal record today and make sure you don’t have any surprises preventing you from flying a drone.
Check Criminal Record uses an intelligent algorithm to comb through databases across America to find the information you need.
Whether you’re searching for your own information or for somebody else’s, your entire search is completely confidential.
The laws above apply to all commercial drone pilots – which includes anyone operating drones for commercial activity. However, there are increasing regulations on those who fly drones as a hobby: non-commercial operators who fly drones heavier than half a pound are legally required to submit their name and address to the FAA using an online registration system.
In any case, the regulations against drone pilots have been steadily increasing in recent months. If you’re a drone pilot worried about your future hobby, consider getting a criminal record check today: it could help you avoid a massive headache in the future.