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Five things you need to know about the FAA's new rules for flying drones

The Federal Aviation Agency just introduced its long-awaited proposal for new drone regulations. Right now it's illegal for companies to operate drones over the US. To fly commercially, companies must get a specific exemption, and only a handful have obtained them so far. The goal of these new rules is to open up the skies to any company with a qualified operator that is willing to follow some basic guidelines.

Nothing will become official until a period of public comment has passed, but the industry is hailing the FAA's approach as a sensible update that would allow the industry to finally move forward with everyday use of drones. Here are the five big takeaways from yesterday's news.

  1. 7,000 new companies flying drones for work

    The FAA estimates that with these new rules in place, more than 7,000 companies would be able to begin flying drones in the first three years. Expect to see quadcopters over construction sites, inspecting cell towers, and checking for forest fires.

  2. No delivery drones yet

    Under the current proposal, drones would not be allowed to operate beyond the pilot's line of sight. Amazon responded that it would push to have this rule changed as it pursues Prime Air.

  3. More transparency on government drones

    The White House released a presidential directive requiring federal agencies to disclose when and where they fly. Tax payer-funded drones will also have to reveal what they do with any data collected during aerial surveillance.

  4. Certification and testing required

    Anyone operating a drone for a private company will need to pass an "aeronautical knowledge" test and obtain a FAA certification that will be renewed every two years. Like R-rated films, you must be 17 or older to enjoy. But the requirements will be far less arduous than obtaining a pilot's license for flying an airplane.

  5. For the average consumer, nothing changes

    The FAA hopes to keep regulating small consumer drones under an exemption for model aircraft. That means no licensing, training, or identification required. We would have suggested some basic training as a reasonable threshold.


  • Developer Yuri Victor