New FAA Rules Make Commercial Drone Flights Legal, Practical
NEWS ANALYSIS: Commercial drone pilots no longer have to fill out pages of paper just to fly a short mission, but not all restrictions have been eliminated and you still need to pass a test.When the Federal Aviation Administration first released rules for operating drones, they were for drones operated by hobbyists, and they were very similar to the rules for flying model aircraft. Commercial uses were possible, but required a burdensome approval process that many ignored, choosing to fly their drones illegally. Worse, anyone operating a drone had to be a licensed pilot, which complicated the process. Now that’s all changed. The FAA has released a new regulation, known as Part 107, which allows commercial operations of what the agency calls unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). For those who don’t want to read all 624 pages, there’s also a summary. The new rule specifically states that commercial operations are allowed; it says what the operational limitations are and what the pilot certification involves. There’s also some information on the new parts of the process, such as approval by the Department of Homeland Security.
Commercial drones must be within 400 feet above ground level, except when they’re near a structure, where they can go as high as necessary as long as they’re within 400 feet of the structure. This is good news for drones that are used to inspect buildings, bridges, cell towers and other tall structures, where it is a lot easier and safer to use a drone for remote inspections rather than find a person willing to do it.