FAA Sets First Commercial Drone Rules: No Package Delivery Yet
Commercial drones can fly up to 400 feet in altitude at speeds up to 100 mph and require a remote pilot certificate, not a pilot's license.The Federal Aviation Administration's long-awaited commercial drone rules are now finalized to allow businesses to use drones weighing up to 55 pounds for aerial photography, agricultural work, construction surveying and other for-hire uses, but related rules that could allow package delivery are still not ready. The FAA's new regulations, formally called the Part 107 Rule, will now allow businesses to use small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, to expand their operations and develop new technologies while operating in the nation's airspace, according to the agency. The Part 107 Rule will take effect in August, 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which could happen late this week or early next week, an FAA spokesman told eWEEK. In the last few years, while the FAA was working to create final operating rules for commercial drones, companies were able to apply for "exemptions" under FAA Section 333 rules that allowed them to perform work using drones, even as the rules were being written and before they were finalized. Those exemptions initially only permitted drones to be operated by people with a full pilot's license, but that requirement was later rolled back to allow commercial drone flights by operators holding a sport or recreational pilot's license. Almost 2,000 such exemptions were approved by the FAA while the rules were being drafted, allowing businesses to begin operations with drones as the technology emerged.
Under the new rules, commercial drone operators will now have to have a remote aircraft certificate with a small UAS rating, or be supervised by someone holding such a certificate, instead of needing a higher-level pilot's license, according to the FAA. A prospective drone pilot who wants to get a remote pilot certificate must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate. Security checks of all certificate applicants will be conducted by the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) before a certificate is issued.