The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released Tuesday the first regulations for commercial drones aimed at paving the way for the industry growth and inspiring creativity regarding the use of the technology. The new rules take effect in 60 days, meaning that they will be official on Aug. 20.
The operational limitations include that drones must be lighter than 55 pounds and have anti-collision lights during flights half-hour after sunset and half-hour before sunrise as the FAA’s new rules extended drone operations from daytime use only. Remote pilots must keep a top speed of 100mph, and any exception requires an FAA waiver, as reported by The Washington Post.
The drone must be kept in sight at all times. An observer working with the operator can be tasked with keeping an eye on the device, which must fly below 400 feet. The FAA prohibits drone flights and operations over people who are not directly involved in the activity, and the devices must travel at least 5 miles from airports.
As for requirements for drone operators, they must be at least 16 years old and obtain an FAA “remote pilot” certificate, which they can get after taking an aviation knowledge test at any testing center approved by the government. Those pilots operating manned aircraft can take a test online to get a certificate. On the other hand, hobbyists not using their drones as part of their job can fly them without either of the two licenses.
Every 24 months, remote pilots will be required to submit to a government background check not different from the security check intended for manned aircraft pilots.
“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,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement, as quoted by ZDNet. “But this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”
It seems like the government is truly seeing the potential applications drones can have, which include monitoring crops, assisting official agencies in natural disasters and overseeing power lines and pipelines. The technology is also promising to the media, as it could make it easier to take photographs over crowds. Hopefully, the FAA will soon allow such drone performances.
Critics say more limitations should be lifted
The administration said its new regulations, which are less restrictive the those issued last year mostly because drone operators are no longer required to obtain a special FAA permission, had the potential to generate over $82 billion for the American economy, according to ZDNet. The FAA added that the new rules could also help create over 100,000 new jobs over a 10-year period.
However, the rule that requires drone operators and observers directly involved in the activity to keep sight of the drone at all times restricts the package delivery service proposed by Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Project Wing. This idea is also hindered by the rules which state that drones are not allowed to fly over people who have nothing to do with the operation.
The automated delivery service similar to Amazon’s Prime Air will not be permitted, but the company has previously said it could move its drone research and development to other countries with less restrictive regulations.
“While it’s exciting that commercial drones are finally legal, the FAA missed an opportunity to remove many unnecessary restrictions on the use of this promising technology,” commented Eli Dourado, director of the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, as reported by ComputerWorld.
Dourado added that even though the FAA no longer bans drones from carrying external loads, the delivery service would be extremely limited by the line-of-sight rule. He said the administration should lift more restrictions to let people fully embrace the technology’s potential.
The rule that forces drone operators always to keep an eye on their drones will also have an adverse impact on promising drone uses, including inspection flights along power lines, gas pipelines railway lines to monitor problems or obstacles, according to ComputerWorld.
For his part, Marc Scribner, a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees that the administration should lift further restrictions to allow wider access to the skies and make the field between commercial and hobby operators more justly.
‘We are in the early days of an aviation revolution’
President Obama told Bloomberg News in an interview that America was witnessing the beginning of an aviation revolution that would generate changes in the way people do business and collect data of the world around them. He also said there would be variations in the way the government keeps people safe.
The president added that the new federal regulations, which are far more understanding than the previous ones, were the first step to represent the innovative thinking that would help grow the economy and improve the lives of the American citizens.
The rules will mark an immediate boost for drone makers like SZ DJI Technology Co. of China. Other large companies that have been working with the FAA on the expansion of drone operations include PrecisionHawk in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Santa Monica-based AirMap Inc. in California.
Source: Washington Post