It’s the news the commercial drone world has waited years for: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published its first operational rules for commercial drone use. Titled Part 107, these new regulations are expected to lower the barrier entry for new commercial drones weighing less than 55 pounds.
According to the FAA, Part 107 could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.
For the past four years, commercial drone operators have had to go through taxing training and paperwork processes with the FAA, including a Section 333 exemption – a lengthy process that required operators to have a manned pilot’s license. According to Market Watch, the FAA has granted more than 6,100 Section 333 exemptions since 2014, and another 7,600 are waiting for approval.
The biggest changes in Part 107 include:
• The minimum age for a Remote Pilot in Command is now 16 years old.
• The maximum altitude has been changed to 400 feet AGL.
• Current Part 61 manned aircraft certificate holders will only have to take and pass an online test.
• Eliminating the requirement for a visual observer to be present.
• Eliminating the requirement for an FAA airworthiness certification.
• Taking a written, drone-specific, aeronautical knowledge test in-person.
Though some of these rules will ease past restrictions, Part 107 maintains a couple of obstacles for commercial drone operators. For example, the required written test must be done in-person. Part 107 also dictates that drones still cannot legally fly over people, go past the operator’s visual line of site, or fly during the night.
Operators can apply for a waiver to be exempt from these limitations. The FAA announced it will make an online portal available to apply for these waivers in the months ahead. But the timeliness of this process will most likely resemble the 333 exemption.
For Tier10’s Chief Creative Officer, Scott Rodgers, Part 107’s new regulations were everything he was expecting them to be. As far as he’s concerned, these rules will not affect Tier10 production. “We’ve always followed the FAA’s rules, whether it’s registering our drones, adhering to AGL limits and line of sight guidelines,” said Rodgers. “When you’re flying something that costs $30,000 up in the air, you wouldn’t want to fly it somewhere you can’t see it.”
Tier10 is looking forward to Part 107 and how it will open up new doors and new creative opportunities. “The need for a pilot’s license – which was an $8,000 to $10,000 expense – automatically pulled a lot of people out of the game,” said Rodgers. But now without the need for airworthiness certification, everyone can participate.
“These rules will push creativity and quality of work,” said Rodgers. “And we look forward to it.”
Part 107 and its new regulations are expected to take effect in late August of this year.
Sources: FAA.gov, DroneLife