The U.S.’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has just released a set of proposed rules for the use of drones in commercial situations. These regulations have been long-awaited, and were feared to bring strict requirements such as the need for a pilot’s license. Thankfully for drone enthusiasts, the rules fairly lenient and not that unreasonable. Unless you’re a large business like Amazon hoping to launch a remote package delivery service. Also, nothing changes for recreational users who just like to experiment with unmanned flying machines in their personal time.
So, among the basic rules are that drones used for commercial purposes must weigh less than 55 pounds (25 kg), only be flown under 500 feet during daylight hours, at all times be flown within sight of the pilot/operator, and not have a maximum airspeed over 100 mph (87 knots). Drone pilots are required to be 17 years or older, and must be tested every two years on airspace rules in order to receive an operator certificate, a process that is said to cost less than $300.
Among the suggested commercial uses that the FAA lists are various kinds of photography, agriculture study, inspection of structures like bridges, and search and rescue. The bad news for Amazon and its plans of remote delivery is that visual line of sight requirement. There are commercial drone users other than Amazon that have expressed concern over the flying within sight rule, such as U.S. startups that point to safe technology implementation in use in Europe.
Still, these rules from the FAA are only proposals at this stage, and they say they will be accepting public comments for the next 60 days, so some things could change. Unfortunately the final decision-making process could take as long as two years, so it’s probably best not to make any business plans that rely on small unmanned aircrafts carrying out tasks for you.