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FAA Finalizes First Operational Rules for Drones

Businesses now have the opportunity to use small unmanned aircraft systems.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the first operational rules for commercial use of drones in the nation’s airspace. The new guidelines will allow drones to safely operate and potentially increase job growth in the United States.

“We are part of a new era in aviation, and the potential for unmanned aircraft will make it safer and easier to do certain jobs, gather information and deploy disaster relief,” U.S. transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said.

The new rule, set to begin in August, provides safety regulations for drones that weigh 55 pounds or less and are used for non-leisure purposes. Provisions of the new rule were drafted in order to maximize aircraft safety, civilian safety and property safety.

Pilots must operate drones during daylight within visible sight distance and at twilight if the UAS has proper anti-collision lighting. Height and speed restrictions were also put into place, to prohibit flights over ground-level individuals who were not involved with the drones.

Certification requirements were also placed for the final rule. Drone pilots have to be at least 16 years old and possess a remote UAS rating pilot certificate or be supervised by someone with this special license. People must pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test or have a current non-student Part 61 pilot certificate apply for a remote pilot certification.

The FAA is also offering a process to waive restrictions if remote pilots prove that their drone flights will be safely operated. An online portal will be provided by the FAA for remote pilots who want to apply for waivers in upcoming months.

In addition to benefiting overall safety operations, the rules for drones will also greatly impact America’s economy by fostering job growth. According to the FAA’s industry estimates, it is projected that drones can add about $32 billion to the U.S. economy and contribute over 100,000 jobs to citizens within the next 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,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. He added, “But this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”