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New FAA Small Drones Rules Go Into Effect: Here's What You Need To Know To Get A Drone License

30 August 2016, 7:00 am EDT By Horia Ungureanu Tech Times
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Drone enthusiast arrested for flying DJI near Tel Aviv Airport landing strip
The FAA drafted a new series of rules for small drones in the United States. The recent document makes it easier for the average user to fly a UAV but puts some limits to commercial use.  ( Jean P Mouffe | Pixabay )

Starting Monday, Aug. 29, a new set of rules from the Federal Aviation Administration will apply to those who want to own a small drone, and they erase a slew of bureaucratic problems.

Previously, users who wanted to own and use such devices had to go apply for a special permission from the federal government, a waiver process that could take at least a few months.

Insiders familiar with the matter point out that while the new rules [PDF] enforced by the FAA on commercial drones take a huge rock of the chests of companies that want to fly UAVs, a number of constraints are still in place.

Here are the main things to remember.

What Are The New Rules?

The new FAA rules say that operators have to maintain eye contact with their drones at all times. This means that pilots have to play with their devices only during daytime, but twilight flights are all right, should the device come embedded with anti-collision lights.

The maximum speed for a drone flying is capped at 100 mph. It also cannot fly higher than 400 feet above the ground. Operators are forbidden to fly drones over someone who is not involved in its operation.

For carrier drones, the top load of the drone and package it holds must be 55 pounds.

Until the new regulations came into play, people who wanted to fly a commercial drone had to request a pilot's license.

Under the new rules, anyone who is older than 16 can take an aeronautical knowledge test at a facility approved by the FAA and can receive a remote pilot certificate. Keep in mind that a background check is also necessary for the remote pilot certificate.

What If Companies Have Plans That Would Break The Rules?

Businesses are permitted to bypass most operational restrictions, but they must prove that their activity will happen in the safest conditions.

The waivers should help authorities have a better understanding of how companies plan on using drones beyond the limited regulations. Big names such as Google and Amazon have already proposed more lax laws that would help them deploy complex drone operations, such as the Amazon Prime Air delivery system.

What Types Of Industries Will Benefit Most From The Rules?

Experts from the industry note that a number of industries will be able to tap into using the drones under the new regulations right away. Some of these are aerial photography, construction and architecture, real estate and others that simply need to take some images or a video clip of a property.

Some other areas, such as farmers who want to survey large fields or oil and gas firms that want to investigate pipelines, will face harsh limitations due to the visual line-of-sight rule. For example, security companies that want to use drones after dark must apply for a waiver in order to have the legal right to do so.

What Is The Future Of Drone Delivery Companies?

According to the new laws, drones can help companies to deliver goods, but the weight and visual line-of-sight restriction means that larger companies that plan to use drones for long-distance travel will have to wait.

Will These Rules Impact The Number Of Commercial Drones?

By eliminating the necessity for a pilot license, the FAA opened the gates for a large number of owners to legally have and operate drones. However, the multiple restrictions might have a checks-and-balances effect on the commercial side of drone operation.

Gretchen West, who is a co-executive director at the Commercial Drone Alliance advocacy group, points out that an increase in drone use once the rules take effect is to be expected.

She goes on to say that regulations are only a part of the reason why commercial drones will take a while before swarming up the skies. She explains that companies tend to manifest an adversity toward risk and as long as they can be sued over privacy issues, they will stick with traditional transportation.

"There's still a lot of challenges we have to overcome to prove the value of drones," West says.

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