The Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have revealed the final rules for the commercial use of small unmanned vehicles, also known as Part 107. According to them, this will help foster new business and government opportunities and innovation.
“Not only does Part 107 reduce the previous barriers to starting a commercial drone operation, it also makes it easier for large enterprises to scale their drone activities with more pilots, more efficient use of personnel and fewer regulatory hurdles,” said Mike Winn, cofounder and CEO of DroneDeploy. “Ultimately, this means that companies operating in the U.S. can now be more competitive, particularly in the construction, mining, agriculture, inspection, and oil and gas sectors.”
The new rule is designed for commercial drones that weigh less than 55 pounds, and it will take effect in late August. It includes operating within visual line of sight during daylight hours. Operators may fly their drones during twilight hours if they have anti-collision lights. In addition, the rule states drones can’t fly over anyone who isn’t directly participating in the operation of the aircraft, and it provides height and speed restrictions.
According to Winn, the most significant change under Part 107 is that it is no longer required to obtain a pilot’s license or Section 333 exemption. “Up until this point, the need for a licensed pilot and the lack of regulatory clarity were the most significant bottlenecks to many businesses looking to expand drone operations,” he said.
The FAA will waive some restrictions for operators who can prove their flight will be conducted safely. There will be an online portal made available in the coming months.
“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. “But this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”
The rules also states that the operator must be at least 16 years old with a remote pilot certification and small UAS rating, or have to be supervised under someone who holds such certificate—much like driving a car.
“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,” said Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Transportation. “We look forward to working with the aviation community to support innovation while maintaining our standards as the safest and most complex airspace in the world.”
Going forward, DroneDeploy’s Winn hopes the FAA will work on rules for microdrones and for beyond visual line of sight in the near future.