Drones are coming. I know…you already know. But seriously, you will soon see more of them. Why? Well, for one, as technology in general continues to forge ahead, the control systems for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) (or “drones” as they are most commonly referred to) become more and more advanced, while also dropping in price. With the massive growth of ready-to-fly systems targeting the consumer and prosumer market, it’s never been easier to get into this hobby/sport/industry. And with the new FAA Part 107 regulations about to go into effect, you will likely see even more drones in the skies as the barriers to entry for commercial use have been reduced.
Remote controlled aircraft have been around for many, many years, but it is the advancement of technology-enabled, easy-to-fly features that have really opened up the mainstream adoption and launched an entirely new industry. The new growth is also slowly chipping away at the stigma attached to drones stemming from their use in military operations or from general privacy concerns. Any new technology is met with some apprehension, but it will diminish as time goes by.
What does this mean for you? If you just want to fly these as a hobby, then you can certainly do that. They are lots of fun and allow you to capture cool perspectives in photos and videos. You can also experience the adrenaline rush of first-person view (FPV) close-proximity drone racing. Whether you build your own or buy one off the shelf, the hobby is certainly destined to grow. There are some FAA regulations around the hobbyist’s use of drones to ensure other aircraft, people, and property are safe. If your drone weighs between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds, you need to register it with the FAA for a fee of $5. Your registration is good for 3 years. In addition, you should follow these safety rules:
- Fly at or below 400 feet
- Keep your UAS within sight
- Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
- Never fly over groups of people
- Never fly over stadiums or sports events
- Never fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
- Never fly under the influence
- Be aware of airspace requirements
The airspace requirements refer to the different classifications of airspace as defined by the FAA to facilitate manned aircraft flight. Depending on how close you are to surrounding airports, this may not impact you very much, but you should be aware of the information. Particularly if you live in or near a city that has a large airport and likely numerous smaller towered airports. You can click here to read up on the classes of airspace.
If you want to fly for commercial purposes, it’s not so easy. There are several more steps involved to do so. Whether you are capturing aerial photography, videography, performing inspections, etc., you will need to make sure you comply with the new FAA regulations defined as Part 107. Part 107 goes into effect on August 29, 2016, and will essentially supersede the existing exemption process for commercial drone flights known as Section 333. Even if you were to fly for free, if the resulting data captured is used for a commercial business or organization, that would classify it as a commercial flight and should only be executed under the Part 107 regulations.
So how do you get a Part 107 certification for commercial flights? You must be at least 16 years of age, you must pass an FAA aeronautical knowledge test, and you must be vetted by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). The knowledge test is not unlike the knowledge exam required for a private pilot’s license, but will cover more drone specific regulations defined in Part 107. You do need to know general aeronautical information, so the test will require deliberate study to learn all of the information.
After completing those steps, you must follow operational guidelines as listed here:
- Your aircraft must be less than 55 pounds and must be registered
- Operate in Class G airspace*
- Must keep the aircraft in sight (visual line-of-sight)*
- Must fly under 400 feet*
- Must fly during the day*
- Must fly at or below 100 mph*
- Must yield right of way to manned aircraft*
- Must NOT fly over people*
- Must NOT fly from a moving vehicle*
* All of these marked items can be waived although the specific process for Part 107 waivers is not yet available.
There are plenty of resources available from the FAA on commercial use of drones under Part 107. The FAA also has information and study guides relating to the remote pilot certification. Please take care to operate your aircraft within the guidelines outlined by the FAA. You must also take into consideration state and local laws or ordinances as there are frequently additional restrictions imposed by those entities. Responsible flights by everyone are important to reflect positively on the drone and RC community as well as avoid more strict rules and policies in the future.
While it may seem a bit onerous to deal with these FAA regulations, I have to say that I’m impressed that these new regulations have come about as fast as they have. Keep in mind also, that Part 107 is brand new and will almost certainly see significant changes over the next year or two as remote pilots explore the limitations and shortcomings of the regulations in practice. Check out the FAA UAS site for more information. The new regulations do not quite open the door yet for carrier services like Amazon is working on, but it is a step closer and will almost certainly be opened up soon.
Dellinger Technologies has a Section 333 exemption pending and is scheduled for Part 107 certification as soon as the process goes into effect next week. As a manned aircraft private pilot myself and drone enthusiast, I’m very excited about the commercial opportunities available in this new industry. Should you need any professional aerial services, please contact Dellinger Technologies. Don’t settle for illegal service providers without FAA certification or those that deliver lower quality results to meet a low price point. We would love to leverage our years of technical and professional expertise to develop the perfect solution to meet your needs with quality and attention to detail that you will not regret.