New Day, New Rule for Commercial Drone Users

Today the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced rules allowing for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS). Part 107 to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations permits a remote pilot-in-command to commercially operate a small UAS (one weighing less than 55 pounds) up to 400’ altitude during the day, under certain conditions. Previously, all flights in furtherance of or incidental to a business were considered commercial uses of UAS, not recreational, and were prohibited without special permission from the FAA.

Some of the major provisions of the new rule effective in August are:

  • Remote pilot-in-command (RPIC) must have an unmanned operator certificate, which is obtained by passing an aeronautical knowledge test
  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 pounds
  • sUas must be operated during daylight
  • sUAS may not be operated over any persons not directly involved in the operation, under a covered structure, or inside a covered stationary vehicle
  • sUAS may not exceed the maximum airspeed of 100 mph or maximum altitude of 400’
  • sUAS must be operated within visual line of sight
  • sUAS must yield right-of-way to other aircraft

Anticipating that some uses will not comply with the new rule’s operational limitations (such as night flights and those beyond line of sight), the rule allows drone operators to apply for waiver of most of the restrictions if they can demonstrate that their operations can safely be conducted under the terms of a waiver.

A major change relates to the sUAS operator (the remote pilot-in-command), who must either hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a sUAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who does. The RPIC must qualify for a remote pilot certificate by demonstrating aeronautical knowledge (not operational ability). He can do this by passing an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center. If the RPIC already has a Part 61 pilot certificate, he must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months and take a sUAS online training course provided by the FAA. The RPIC must be at least 16 years old and vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.

Previously, the pilot-in-command was required to have an airline transport, commercial, private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate, which posed a burden for most businesses wanting to incorporate this new technology. Besides that requirement, the operator had to obtain an exemption certificate, or 333, allowing for UAS use in a business. The 333 took around six months to process and issue, and it contained 29 flight conditions.

In announcing the new rule, the FAA explains, “These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives.” The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a UAS industry group, estimates that the expansion of UAS technology will generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create over 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.

Have questions about your company’s operation of a UAS within FAA regulations and Louisiana drone laws? Schedule a consultation with Seale & Ross’s Commercial Drone / UAS Practice Group today.

Seale & Ross’s Commercial Drone / UAS Practice Group works with a variety of business clients, as well as public and law enforcement agencies, to address the technological, practical, business, and privacy concerns of commercial drone use. To connect with the firm’s Commercial Drone / UAS Practice Group, including to discuss UAS use by a business, public body, or law enforcement agency, please email or call 985.542.8500.