A Big Day for the Drone Industry
After a few years of lobbying back and forth between the FAA and commercial drone operators, legislation finally released the official set of parameters making commercial drone utilization a now legal industry in the US.
It seems the White House and Obama decided to put the vice on a bit and force the hand of the FAA to expedite the process as the desire to utilize drones for government purposes increased as of late. Clearly, if the White House began utilizing drones more publicly while the general professional public awaited their opportunity via the FAA’s sloth approach to clearance regulations, an uproar would follow.
Over Presidents weekend in 2015, specifically on Sunday February 15th, note of the rules and regulations were leaked to Forbes.com. It didn’t take long for the news to hit mainstream and as of Monday February 16th, the news is out: commercial drone operations are now legal in the United States of America.
There were many haunting proposals such as drone operators being forced to become commercially licensed pilots, almost equivalent to commercial airline worthy testing and training. Inversely, this type of action would allow current pilots, whom may have never flown a drone before, the allowance to launch drones in the sky with little to no training. While it seemed like a noble idea to thicken the barrier of entry in to the sky via drone with this type of legislation, it would allow completely inexperienced drone pilots (commercially licensed airline pilots) the ability to launch while disabling drone operators that have upwards of tens of thousands of hours of experience to launch their UAVs.
With all that being said, let’s take a look at the current rules, which are sure to be commented and possibly amended slightly:
- Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
- Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer.
- At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
- Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
- Proposals of a micro-UAS option that would allow operations in Class G airspace, over people not involved in the operation, provided the operator certifies he or she has the requisite aeronautical knowledge to perform the operation.
- Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).
- Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
- Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.
- Operators must be at least 17 years old.
- A certification of basic air space understanding and back ground check via the TSA will be implemented and must be completed at least every two years.
All in all, this is a HUGE step for the growth of what is already one of the fastest pace technological industries in the United States and the world. While the barrier of entry becomes increasingly easier, it’s great to see the FAA finally unveil a reasonable and approachable set of guidelines to match the approachability of the technology.
At Aerial Photo Media we couldn’t be more ecstatic about the news and we look forward to providing our communities with professional and industry standard setting aerial photography, video, and data collection.