Part 107 is in full effect, but what does that mean to you and what does that mean to the industry going forward? At a glance, it means registered operators with drones weighing 55 pounds or less can operate commercially under this set of rules.
But the major differences in the proposed rules include the replacement of COA blanket restrictions, as well as flying within a certain radius. For instance, in the previous proposed rules, operations were limited to 500 feet above ground level. With Part 107, operators can now fly within 400 feet of a structure.
“I think we got it right, but it is only one more step to an incredible future,” said Marke “Hoot” Gibson, senior advisor for unmanned aircraft systems integration at the FAA. He spoke at InterDrone’s FAA regulation panel along with Thomas Gemmell from the law firm Polsinelli; Matthew Grosack from the law firm DLA Piper; Brendan Schulman from the drone manufacturer DJI; and moderator Mark McKinnon from the law firm Dentons.
Schulman, vice president of policy and legal affairs at DJI, agrees that Part 107 is a great first step, but believes there are some things missing. For instance, he believes we are missing a micro drone category. While the FAA is working on a micro drone category, Schulman doesn’t believe it needs to be a separate category, and they should be able to safely operate as drones under Part 107.
Part 107 also offers a waiver process for operators looking to go beyond the rules. The most common waivers currently include nighttime operators and beyond line of sight. Gibson says there is about a 90-day waiting period once you submit an application for a waiver. Besides the wait, the problem with the waiver is that if a pilot receives a waiver to operate for their company, but the company hires another pilot, the new pilot has to apply and wait for a waiver to get approved.
According to Schulman, if you are doing the same thing the same way for the same company, you should be able to get a waiver overnight. Gibson hopes to be able to streamline this process soon. As waivers are approved, the FAA is publishing them so the community can see what works and mitigations make sense.
In addition, Part 107 also eliminates a majority of Section 333 exemptions
As a whole, Grosack believes that with Part 107, the time for businesses and operators to leap into the industry is now. “The money is there,” he said. “The opportunities are there, both public and private.”
In 2015, most of the investment in the industry went toward hardware. This year, Grosack believes the investment and focus will turn to applications and software that put the hardware to use. “We are going to see the investment dollars really open up to the masses outside of hardware,” he said.