The New York Law Blog: FAA: (Some) Small Businesses Can Start Using Drones
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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

FAA: (Some) Small Businesses Can Start Using Drones

NY Legal News, Commercial Drones
New federal regulations take effect that will allow commercial uses of drones.

The rules created by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cover unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds flown for "routine non-hobbyist use."  The rules govern simple uses of drones for tasks like surveying property, real estate site inspections and photography.  The rules do not (yet) allow use of drones for deliveries and shipping, which require autonomous technology.

Among the new FAA rules are the following:
  • All drones have to remain in Visual Line-Of-Sight (VLOS) of the pilot. The remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls must remain within VLOS of the visual observer.

  • No first-person-view cameras;

  • Operation is only allowed during daylight hours. Twilight flying is permitted if the drone has anti-collision lights;

  • Maximum ground speed of 100 mph; 

  • Maximum altitude of 400 feet; and

  • Pilots must be over 16 years old and must obtain a "remote pilot airman certificate" issued by the FAA.  To obtain the certificate, applicants must take an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved facility and pass a background check.
Vehicles will also need to register with the FAA, which expects as many as 600,000 drones will be in use commercially during the next year.

What do these new regulations mean for small business?  These regulations clear the way for new industry and enhanced tools in existing industries. Other industries can benefit from commercial drones like farmers tending large fields, oil and gas firms that can investigate pipelines or security companies using drones to patrol (but they would need to apply for a waiver to operate after dark). Even media companies may start employing drones for on-site coverage.  Finally, the inevitable momentum towards use of drones for delivery services seems to be a matter of "when," not "if" it will happen.
*Gene Berardelli may be contacted at:

Gene is a New York street-smart attorney with an extreme passion for success. Gene specializes in litigation, arbitration and general corporate law for New York-based and international clients. He, also, is the host of a popular New York talk radio program.