Small Businesses Can Start Using Drones According to FAA

New federal regulations take effect that will allow commercial uses of drones in the United States.


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 the 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.

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