For years this nation’s businesses have been waiting to be allowed to use drones in their daily operations. What they have been waiting for is for the FAA to release regulations that would allow such uses. Up until now, it has been illegal to use a drone for any business purpose. In order for a business to operate a drone, they had to apply for a “333 Exemption” a long an arduous process. Even once the exemption was granted, they had to have a licensed pilot either operating the drone, or supervising the operation.
Needless to say, that has put a lid on commercial use of drones.
As of August 31, 2016, however, that is all going to change.
Well, a lot of it is going to change.
One of the articles explaining the new rules was published in USA Today and says “The rules, made public Tuesday, mark the FAA’s first attempt at a comprehensive plan to ensure the popular remote-controlled aircraft can safely share the skies with commercial craft.”
You can read the official summary of the rules here. The biggest changes are:
1. You no longer need to go through the 333 Exemption process
2. You no longer need to have a licensed pilot involved in the operation. Instead, there will be a separate testing and licensing process for UAV pilots.
Those two things alone are expected to have a major impact on the use of commercial drones in this country, something we in the drone industry have been waiting for.
I’m already starting to hear from our customers that their orders have suddenly ballooned since the rules were announced. This tells me that businesses that have been planning to use drones, but have been holding off, now feel that they have the freedom to operate.
In short, we’re all feeling very optimistic here!
Here’s what’s missing from the new drone regulations
According to a recent article in Tech Crunch, while the new rules will provide new opportunities for businesses, there is more that needs to be done:
“Part 107 will allow for visual line-of-sight flights, as long as operators follow certain regulations and restrictions. While this is a logical first step, businesses won’t see the true cost benefit of drones until they are allowed to deploy beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights.”
In the meantime, other countries, with more favorable regulations are seeing the commercial use of drones expand, providing important, sometimes even life-saving services. As we reported in a previous newsletter, the U.S. based company, Zipline International, has formed a partnership with UPS to deliver blood and vaccines in Rwanda.
Such flights would not automatically be permitted in the U.S.. However, there is a process under the new rules to obtain a waiver of these restriction, including beyond line of sight, nighttime operations, and flying over people. It remains to be seen how difficult it will be to get a waiver from the FAA.
An article by aviation law expert Jon Rupprecht lays out his understanding of the restrictions that can be waived, including night operations and BVLOS flights.