Get Your Drone On! The FAA Has Issued Final Rules on Small Commercial UAVs

Yesterday was the first day of summer and today we finally have final rules on the operation of Small Commercial UAVs!  Can life get any better than this?!

What does this mean? 

This means commercial drone use is no longer something sneaky you do behind the FAA's back.  Instead, you can do it legally- starting in late August- so long as all the FAA rules are followed.  It also means you no longer have to petition for an exemption unless you want some or all of the  UAV rules waived for your particular use.  In other words, the exemption certificates we discussed here and here are probably no longer needed unless you are really thinking outside the box about commercial drone use. 

What are the Final FAA Rules on Small UAVs?

As suspected, the final rules look a lot like the proposed rules we discussed here with a few additions/adjustments.  Some highlights of the new final rules:

  • UAVs cannot be operated over any person "not directly participating in the operation" nor can they be operated under a covered structure or inside a covered stationary vehicle.  
  • UAVs must weigh less than 55 pounds.
  • UAVs must be operated by a Remote Pilot in Command within the Pilot's Visual Line-of-Sight (VLOS).
  • UAVs must be operated during daylight only - which extends to "civil twilight" (30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset). 
  • A first-person view camera cannot satisfy the "see-and-avoid" requirement but may be used as long as the "see-and-avoid" requirement is met in other ways.
  • UAVs can only have a max groundspeed of 100 miles per hour and a max altitude of 400 feet above ground level. 
  • You can't carry toxic or other hazardous materials with your UAV. 
  • UAVs may not be operated from a moving aircraft or moving vehicle (unless the vehicle is moving in a sparsely populated area). 
  • UAVs can only carry things is that are securely attached and the flight characteristics/safety are not compromised. #AmazonWin
  • You cannot operate more than one UAV at a time. #AmazonFail

What about the Pilots?

Most of the proposed rules remain in the final rules.  Pilots of small UAVs must hold an airman certificate with a small UAV rating or be under the the direct supervision of a person who holds this certificate.  How do you get this airman certificate?  You must be 16 years old, pass a TSA test and pass an FAA aeronautical knowledge test.  

REMEMBER! If you are operating the UAV in North Carolina, you will need to comply with the NC-specific rules for pilots and UAV operation, as well.  Good thing we review the North Carolina rules here and here

Other Interesting Facts?

The FAA can request a number of documents pertinent to small UAVs, including inspection and test documents and safety records.  Speaking of safety, if you #fail as a pilot and cause $500 worth of property damage, serious injury, and/or loss of consciousness (presumably to a human or beloved family pet), you must report the incident to the FAA within 10 days.  Also, preflight inspections are a required prerequisite before the UAV can lawfully leave the ground.

BONUS ROUND! Don't forget to register your drone with the FAA as discussed here.  AND PLEASE DO NOT FLY YOUR DRONE NEAR AN AIRPORT

If you are an over-achiever and would like to review this FAA Summary of the Final UAV rules, you can find it here.