The Federal Aviation Administration on June 21 issued its first rules covering the commercial use of drones. The rules take effect in late August.
They are a departure from current policy. Right now, businesses may fly drones only if the operators get special permission from the FAA.
Under the new rules, drones may carry payloads if the payloads are secure and don’t interfere with flight. The craft and payload may not weigh more than 55 pounds.
For now, it looks as though drones may not go very far, unless the government grants an exception to an operator. Drones may not leave the operator’s sight, may fly only at daylight or twilight, and may not fly faster than 100 mph or higher than 400 feet (except near buildings). Individual aircraft must be registered with the government.
Drones in flying certain areas near airports need permission from an air traffic control tower. Qualcomm Inc., which flies drones at its Sorrento Mesa campus with special FAA permission, must get an OK from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar prior to any flight.
Responding to concerns about possible invasion of privacy, the FAA said it “strongly encourages all UAS pilots to check local and state laws before gathering information through remote sensing technology or photography.” UAS stands for unmanned aerial system.
An FAA fact sheet covering the new rules is available online at http://1.usa.gov/28Lbgxk
Several manufacturers in the industry reacted positively to the rules.
“We applaud the Federal Aviation Administration for finalizing a rule that will provide immense benefits to the country by opening American airspace for safe, responsible use of small unmanned aircraft,” said the Drone Manufacturers Alliance in a statement.
Alliance members include 3DR, which has facilities in Otay Mesa and Tijuana, and GoPro, which has an office in Carlsbad. Other alliance members are DJI and Parrot.
“We are extremely pleased the rule establishes a risk-based, federal approach for operating drones nationwide, and thank the FAA for engaging industry throughout the process,” the alliance said. “We believe the rule will enhance safety and compliance, and allow a spectrum of industries to utilize drones to save lives, time and expense.
“We look forward to working with the FAA as this rule is implemented, and on next steps for recognizing a set of rules for a micro category of UAS, and for beyond the line of sight and nighttime operations.”
Hobbyists — that is, people who don’t fly their drones for money — may follow previously issued FAA rules.