FAA Releases Long-Awaited Update for Commercial Drone Operators

FAA Releases Long-Awaited Update for Commercial Drone Operators

Today brings great news for commercial drone operators. The FAA has finalized the Part 107 rules, which bring with them relaxed requirements. Experts estimate the new rules could generate $82 billion and 100,000 jobs for the U.S. economy in the next 10 years.

Before today, becoming certified to fly a drone commercially was a lengthy process that required one to be vastly overqualified for the task. The FAA recognized this and has been working to create a new set of rules specifically tailored for the burgeoning industry. Today's release (set to go into effect in August of this year) represents a big step forward. Here are some key aspects of the new rules:

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less that 55 lbs. 
  • The aircraft must remain in visual line of sight of the pilot or the observer. The line of sight must be accomplished using vision unaided by anything except corrective lenses.
  • Aircraft may not fly over people not participating in its operation or in a covered structure.
  • Operation is limited to daylight and civil twilight.
  • First-person views are allowable, but do not satisfy the visual line of sight or see and avoid requirement. 
  • Right of way must be yielded to other aircraft.
  • Altitude shall not be higher than 400 ft above ground level or if higher than 400 ft, the aircraft shall remain within 400 ft of a structure.
  • Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles while operating.
  • Operation in Class B, C, D, and E airspace is allowable with ATC permission.
  • No careless or reckless operations.
  • Most restrictions can be waived through the appropriate process. 

The remote pilot in command will now be required to hold a remote pilot certificate, which will require a background check and an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center, or the possession of a pilot's license and completion of an online course. 

Today's update represents a much more sensible approach to licensing and regulating commercial drone usage and should make it much easier for those looking to undertake such operations. You can read the full summary of the new rules here.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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I think it's also important to note that accidents must be reported within 10 days if there is an injury or property damage over $500.

Cannot fly inside a covered structrue? Shouldn't that be up to the business? I worked in a large retail store and assisted a drone pilot who flew through the store and got some incredible footage.

"Aircraft may not fly over people not participating in its operation or in a covered structure"
Read as Aircraft may not fly over people not participating in its operation whether they are outdoors or in a covered structure.

Written in standard, poorly worded FAA speak. The summary states "Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, and not inside a covered stationary vehicle." I do not wish to be inside a covered, stationary vehicle with a drone flying around in it.

That was the one item that threw me a bit too; I'm not sure what situation they're envisioning there. Bridges, maybe?

I think this is to address privacy concerns. i.e. cannot fly over people in the open to spy on them.

I read it as, It is OK to fly over people who are in a covered structure.

Much better than the nonsense that was in place prior...I only hope Canada and Europe adopt something similar.

if im not mistaken, it doesn't say anywhere how much this license is going to cost, right?

that's the $83billion part...

As an FAA licensed Private Pilot for 38 years, will I have to get a Drone License?

Why wouldn't you? How many of your planes have you flown remotely in those decades of experience? Times are changing, no doubt your time in the cockpit has given you a unique perspective, Albeiet not the only perspective one needs. No joke at all, but an experienced RC car operator has more relevant experience than a pilot when it comes to drones.

Most of the Drones are being flow in GPS mode with very little aeronautical or aerodynamic understanding at all. I suspect anyone whose flown aircraft for any length of time would have a problem flying a drone. Technology has changed, most of the principles of flying are based in physics. I kinda have to snark at your RC Car operator remark. It leads me to believe you don't understand, nor respect apparently, what is required to fly an airplane. Not an RC plane or a Virtual Plane, because neither result in death of you and your loved ones if you make a mistake, but you know... real planes, where mistakes get you killed. I've played with RC cars as well. It did not require nearly as much time to learn as flying a plane. Especially in today's cluttered and controlled airspace. But I suspect you just wanted to snark some old fart.

The Aeronautical Knowledge Test should only be $150.