Updated regulations simplifying commercial drone regulations


The Federal Aviation Administration has introduced a much-anticipated piece of legislation that is expected to introduce many new players to the industry.

The FAA released updated regulations on June 21 for the commercial operation of drones, known as Part 107. Under Part 107, which goes into effect this August, the certifications process to fly a drone commercially will become much simpler. Current FAA regulations require anyone who operates a drone for commercial purposes to hold a manned pilot’s license with what is known as a 333 exemption.

Chris Jordan sets up his drone. Jordan is the owner of SkyCandy Digital Cinema. (Jacob Schwarz)

“Currently, one of the biggest bars to entry into the drone business is the requirement of a manned pilot license,” said Mountain West Unmanned Systems Alliance president Ryan Wood. “This essentially creates what they’re calling a remote pilot’s license.”

Because of the complications associated with obtaining a 333 exemption, many aspiring commercial drone pilots have been waiting for the FAA’s announcement before entering the industry. Others have simply bypassed this process and chosen to operate their unmanned aircraft without a permit.

The concept of a remote pilot’s license is expected to introduce many new operators into the commercial drone industry. This would mean increased competition for Utah business owners who currently use drones in their practices, such as photographers and building inspectors.

“It’s bittersweet, because it will allow a lot more commercial use of drones,” said SkyCandy Digital Cinema owner Chris Jordan. “Now it’s going to be easier, not as much hassle, and everyone and their dog is going to be able to do it.”

Unmanned aircraft manufacturers and sellers in Utah reacted positively to the FAA’s announcement.

“The news that came out (in June) was such good news,” said Space City Drones owner Jason Pedersen. “Now people can make a business out of this hobby without all the restrictions that were in place before.”

According to a statement from the FAA, Part 107 “could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.”

“It’s a great step in the right direction,” Wood said. “The current way it works, it can be tough to run a sustainable business because of all the regulations.”

Part 107 also specifies the legal limits for the operation of a drone, as well as the aircraft itself. For instance, anyone flying a drone commercially must ensure that the weight, height and speed of their craft is within the new FAA rules. The Utah drone community has expressed mixed feelings about these legal limits.

“I do see some wisdom in it. The hope is that people won’t fly them recklessly or endanger lives,” said Dreamstock Media owner Josh Hall. “In terms of what I use it for, sure, some of the rules are restricting.”

Federal regulators say the restrictions in Part 107 are designed to make the commercial operation of drones more safe.

“With this new rule, we are taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect public safety,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a statement.

To become certified under Part 107, each aspiring pilot must pass a written exam. Some in Utah’s drone community have argued that an emphasis on education, rather than new rules, will be the key to making drone operations more safe.

SkyCandy Digital Cinema owner Chris Jordan flies his drone. Jordan recognizes that drones can be dangerous when people aren’t aware of how to use them properly. (Jacob Schwarz)

“I hope that the people who were doing things (the old) way will now take the time to take that written exam and get their certification,” Pedersen said. “A lot of these rules are just based on common sense.”

Jordan, who recalls once seeing a drone hovering dangerously over one of Utah’s freeways, expressed a similar point of view.

“Some people haven’t educated themselves enough on just how dangerous drones can be,” Jordan said. “Because of a few careless people here and there, thousands of people are being affected. I think the FAA is doing the best they can with what they have.”

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