In a long-awaited move, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finally set out regulations regarding the use of commercial drones in the United States. This new legislation means more companies and government agencies are able to use drones for their business – and will have a dramatic, and positive, effect on the aviation sector.
Previously, only a very limited number of commercial drone uses were allowed, through Waiver 333 applications from qualified drone pilots. The latest legislation opens out the commercial and government use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to enable more businesses and agencies to use drones for financial gain.
Why The FAA Rules Matter
This is a hugely significant move: opening out the market from a select few to a much wider audience will generate up to 100,000 new jobs, contribute an estimated $82billion to the economy, and enable organisations of all kinds to make the most of drone technology. Whether for marketing purposes, safety inspections, or offshore deliveries, drones are making a difference across the world – and now the United States is getting in on the action.
The latest legislation also sets out a variety of other safety rules, such as the minimum age of purchase (13 years old), and the weight class to which these rules apply (under 55lbs). Drones can be flown by FAA-approved pilots in daylight, and also in twilight if anti-collision lights are included on the UAV. Waivers may also be applied for to the FAA under these restrictions, if the drone operator can prove the flight can be conducted safely.
Height and distance limits are also laid out in the document, and additional prohibitions include not using the drone over uncovered people who are not part of the drone operation project.
What About Privacy Rules?
While the document doesn’t cover privacy requirements, all new UAVs already must be registered with the FAA upon purchase, and to ensure drone pilots fly with consideration the organisation will now include privacy education documents with every registration.
“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,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “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.”
Why More Regulation Is A Good Thing
The expansion of use in commercial drones across the world means an increase in regulation – but that’s a good thing! While more regulations may seem like a headache for drone pilots, it actually demonstrates aviation authorities’ growing acceptance of UAVs as part of regular aviation activities. This in turn makes it easier for industries to foresee the possibilities drones may have for their sector, and a clear application, training, and permissions path make using UAVs a more credible and realistic option than before.
Previously, a lack of clarity on the rules has led to many businesses being hesitant over how and where they can use UAVs for their business. Now the regulations are more clearly defined, it is a simpler process for organisations to define their needs against what they are allowed to do when it comes to drones. The new FAA regulations have also paved the way for other aviation authorities in the UK and Europe to follow suit, cementing current guidelines into legislation.
Of course, one of the key positive aspects of increased regulation is improved safety. As aviation authorities recognise the increased use of UAVs in commercial ventures, there is in turn the acceptance of more drones being in the sky. As such, setting out clear rules and restrictions enables higher safety for operators and the general public.
The FAA regulations have far to go: as drones increase in usage, doubtless there will be a requirement for further legislation as trends and problems are identified. This new document, however, is a fantastic start and great news for all commercial ventures and government agencies in the United States who have been itching to use drones but have delayed doing so because of the (lack of) red tape.