In a highly anticipated proceeding, the FAA has released Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule Part 107, which will expand the universe of companies serving the wireless by removing the pilot’s license requirement. Future drone pilots will be certified using an online testing program. Additionally, a visual observer may be used but is not required.
With the new rule, drone companies will no longer have to file for Section 333 exemptions, which were subject to delays at the agency because of high volumes.
This will facilitate new companies offering drone-based services, which is good for the innovation in this space. But as competition drives prices down, carriers will need should make sure that that the company behind the drone packs the engineering and software expertise to provide value.
The new rules allow drones to fly 400 feet horizontally and vertically of a structure. This expands their use to any public safety or broadcast tower, as well as cell antennas mounted on tall buildings.
The weight of unmanned aircraft to less than 55 pounds and their operation to visual line-of-sight (VLOS) rules.
“At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS for those people to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses,” according to a summary of Part 107.
Other operational limitations include:
• Maximum groundspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
• Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
• Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission.
• Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission.
• No person may act as a remote pilot in command or VO for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one time.
• No operations from a moving aircraft.
• No operations from a moving vehicle unless the operation is over a sparsely populated area.
• No careless or reckless operations.
• No carriage of hazardous materials.