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The 60-day waiting period is over—the FAA’s new Part 107 rules for commercial drone use have arrived after being signed back in June. The rules, which cover what the FAA calls “non-hobbyist small unmanned aircraft (UAS) operations,” deal with drones that weigh less than 55 pounds.
For those who own or operate UAS-based companies, such as for aerial cinematography, monitoring agriculture, or surveying, this is exciting news, as it not only validates their businesses, but also opens up new opportunities. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. is late to the to the punch here, as 28 European countries and Canada have already outlined similar rules.
We feared that the rules for achieving UAS pilot certification would be either too lax or too complex, but the FAA seems to have found a nice middle ground—it’s not easy, but it’s also not nearly as difficult as earning a traditional pilot’s license. The FAA requires pilots earn a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating, which requires an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center. For those with a Part 61 pilot certificate, the FAA requires a flight review in the previous 24 months and an online UAS training course.
This means the small UAS certification carries some prestige, and keeps the floodgates open only to those who are truly motivated.
Pilots can fly to altitudes of 400 feet above ground level and must remain within visual line-of-sight (VLOS). The altitude ceiling might seem low to some, but there’s good news—one can fly to higher altitudes if they remain within 400 feet of a structure. That means skyscraper-height shots that made drone cinematography famous are still feasible. Drones can be operated during daylight or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset), with a maximum ground speed of 100 mph (87 knots). Operating the drone above any people who aren’t involved in the flight isn’t allowed.
Pilots are required to make their drone available to the FAA for inspection upon request, and keep records. If there’s an incident that results in serious injury, loss of consciousness, or property damage (other than the UAS) of $500 or more, pilots must report it to the FAA.
In a press release, the FAA said, “According to industry estimates, [Part 107] could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.”
Here at Drone 55, we’re already seeing evidence of that growth—we’re busy certifying our pilots, and can’t wait to see what pilots and drone manufacturers come up with. Truly, it’s an exciting time for the industry, which is only going to go up.
SOURCES: Drone 55 Blog, FAA, FAA, FAA