Today, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration today proposed a framework of regulations (PDF), "that would allow routine use of certain small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in today’s aviation system, while maintaining flexibility to accommodate future technological innovations." Here is the press release.
I don't know what's going on at the FAA but it seems like someone has told them, "you WILL meet your September 2015 deadline!" Perhaps, not coincidently, the Whitehouse also released a presidential memorandum to the heads of federal agencies: Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
The summary of the major provisions (PDF), looks remarkably reasonable and concise. The public will be able to comment on this proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication (Feb 15) in the Federal Register, which can be found at www.regulations.gov.
It's only been about an hour and a half since these proposed regulations were released and Amazon has already protested that these regulations don't accommodate UAS operation where the operator can't see the UAS. Also, Brendan Schulman has been pointing out other issues that need to be resolved, but this is a great first step! This is more progress than the FAA has made on this subject in several years and they seem now to be on track to make something happen.
Update 2/15 1:40PM Pacific: Starting to get some other reactions to the proposed rules:
Thanks to Hans, Chet, Tony and all other pilot readers for alerting me to all this breaking news.