On August 29th, commercial drone use became a reality
You can now fly drones commercially thanks to the new FAA drone regulations that have taken effect. This is a big deal for drone companies that have been waiting to get officially certified. The FAA expects 600,000 commercial drones to be flying by next year. To put this into perspective, there are currently 320,000 planes that carry people registered nationwide. By 2020, there are expected to be 2.7 million drones out there, not including drones used just for fun. With those numbers in our future, the new rules are intended to preserve innovation while maintaining safety.
Before the new rules were in effect, all commercial drone users, about 5500 operators, had to ask the FAA for permission on a case by case basis. Examples of this were things like inspecting power lines, or aerial photography. As of now, 3000 people have already signed up to take the test.
The new ruling allows drones to fly commercially with certain restrictions such as staying under 400 feet, a weight limit of 55 pounds or less, flying less than 100 mph, flying during daylight hours only, and the drone must remain in sight of the pilot at all times.
There will be waivers available for flights that don’t fit the general rules, but pilots will have to demonstrate how they’ll reduce risks. 76 of these waivers have already been given out—72 for night flights and 4 for experimental purposes.
To legally fly drones commercially, you will need to take an in-person aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA approved knowledge testing center. The test will contain 60 multiple choice questions with only one right answer for each. You will be tested on subjects like regulations relating to drones, how weather conditions affect your aircraft, radio communication procedures, crew resource management, airport operations, airspace classification and operating requirements, flight restrictions that effect drone operations and more.
All of this might seem complicated, but in reality, getting certified to fly drones commercially is not much different from getting a state driver’s permit. You study hard for the test, take the test and pay your certification fee which will cost about $150 USD. You can even retake the test after 14 days if you fail the first time.
For those of you who fly drones for fun or recreationally, none of these new regulation will apply to you, although you may need to register your drone before going for your first flight. Check out the Drone Registration article for more info.