Want to fly a drone? Better hope you have a clean criminal background.
In what is yet another way any criminal sentence becomes a life sentence, a >new set of rules (PDF warning) were finalized today in which the Federal Aviation Administration will defer to the Transportation Safety Administration in order to vet people who request Temporary Remote Pilot Certificates.
Therefore, before obtaining a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, all applicants must be approved by the TSA. Under the new rules, the FAA would send all applications to the TSA and issue an airman certificate only after having received an all-clear on their criminal records from the TSA that the applicant does not pose a security risk.
According to the FAA, commenters including Google, NAMIC, and Edison Electric Institute agreed that a TSA security clearance should be required in order to obtain a certificate. The City and County of Denver recommended that the FAA require a Security and Threat Assessment, specifically. Virginia Commonwealth University Honors Students wanted to go so far as to decline licenses to those with a violent or sexual crime in their background. The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and the IME requested that the rules be explicit that failure to obtain TSA security clearance would disqualify that person from receiving an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating.
What all this boils down to is that drone operators will have to run through the same secret criteria that airline pilots and airport security personnel are governed by, including any existing no-fly lists. Thankfully, most commenters also noted that there must be an appeals process for those who feel they improperly failed the STA. These actual new rules (PDF warning) will come into effect 60 days from June 21, 2016.