The day many actual and prospective drone owners have been dreading has finally arrived – the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finally released its safety rules and regulations governing the use of commercial drones. In a shocking twist, the regulations are actually very accommodating for commercial drone owners and businesses that wish to cash in on the might and power of their drones for profit. However, these regulations make something like the long-rumored Amazon drone delivery service a much more difficult feat to pull off (sorry, Amazon, looks like it’s back to the drawing board).
These regulations, which take effect beginning in August, only relate to unmanned aerial vehicles that weigh less than 55 pounds – pretty much every commercial and recreational drone out there. You cannot fly a drone any higher than 400 feet above ground level, or faster than 100mph. All UAV flights must remain in the pilot’s line of sight (this is where Amazon’s vision of drone deliveries gets stifled) and there must be a minimum weather visibility of three miles from the drone’s control station. Commercial drones can only be operated in daylight or up to 30 minutes after sunset, as long as they are equipped with anti-collision lights.
In order to pilot a drone, you must be at least 16-years-old and hold a pilot certificate that you can acquire by going to an FAA-approved testing center and passing an aeronautical knowledge test. Pilots cannot equip their drones with any hazardous materials (fair) and can’t fly them from other moving vehicles unless it’s in a sparsely populated area (smart). Any drone that is going to be flown must be checked out prior to flight. Meanwhile, pilots must notify the FAA within 10 days if a drone causes any property damage over $500 or causes serious injury to a person. Businesses that wish to operate drones that overlook these rules must apply for a waiver via an online portal that the FAA will launch soon.
These fairly lenient regulations are a mea culpa of sorts from the FAA, which settled on this set of rules to avoid infringing on the economic benefits of drones. Industry estimates suggest that the drone industry could generate upwards of $82 million for the US economy and create more than 100,000 jobs in the span of a decade. “With this new rule, we are taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect public safety,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. The business applications for drones seem to be limitless, and if these new rules are any indication, the FAA understands and wants to facilitate the power of commercial drones.