Last week, new federal rules for commercial drone operators took effect. For the first time, the Federal Aviation Administration is not demanding to review and approve of every single commercial use of drones in the country.
This approval-by-waiver process took months, and needlessly delayed commercial development and deployment of drone technology. But don’t expect the FAA’s new Part 107 regulations, which set strict limits on the type of commercial activity drone operators can engage in, to be much better.
The FAA persists in its largely unsupported claim that small drones are a serious threat to the national airspace, and dumped hundreds of pages of new regulations on the nascent commercial drone industry. Operators must pass an FAA knowledge test, which costs $150 and must be renewed every two years. They must also undergo vetting by the Transportation Security Administration.
Once approved, these operators cannot fly drones that weigh more than 55 pounds, fly higher than 400 feet in altitude, fly at night or over populated areas, or fly directly over people not involved in the drone flight.