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FAA Sets Rules for Commercial Drone Use

September 7th, 2016 by Rebecca Norman

With the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration completion of operational rules for routine commercial drone use, new opportunities are becoming available for business and government. The FAA commonly refers to drones as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The release of FAA’s operational rules is key for the integration of  UAS into the national airspace.

U.S. Transportation secretary Anthony Fox said, “We are part of a new era in aviation, and the potential for unmanned aircraft will make it safer and easier to do certain jobs, gather information, and deploy disaster relief. We look forward to working with the aviation community to support innovation, while maintaining our standards as the safest and most complex airspace in the world.”

The new rules have the potential to generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. Commercial drones are expected to improve operational efficiency in telecommunication, energy, retail, and construction.

A recent article in BetaNews indicated that public safety officials recognize the value of commercial drones to support assessment of hazardous materials situations. For instance, drones can be used to initially identify specific needs related to fires and flooding, which will save time and money for firefighters and other public service rescue personnel. California-based company Zipline is launching a drone program where medicine and blood will be delivered to rural and remote communities.

Under the final rule, the person actually flying a drone must be at least 16 years old and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate.

Remote pilots will have to perform a preflight visual and operational check of the small UAS to ensure that safety-pertinent systems are functioning property. The FAA is offering a process to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver.

The FAA predicts that drone sales will jump from about $2.5 million this year to $7 million in 2020.

Press Release