On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) doled out a new set of rules for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). These guidelines, which apply to flying drones and aircrafts weighing under 55 pounds, focus on two key factors: licensing and permissible hours of operation. 

Specifically, the FAA requires that drone operators be 16 years of age and qualify for or “be under the direct supervision of a person who does hold a remote pilot certificate (remote pilot in command).” This is good news for companies who may have wished to use drones in the past, but refrained because of the complex approval process that took several months and required that drones be operated by pilots who carried a manned aircraft licensure issued by the FAA. 

In addition, drones can only be flown during daytime hours. Per FAA guidelines, the permissible range of time is “30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.” Furthermore, the maximum flying height is 400 feet, although operators can request a waiver to fly at a higher altitude. 

The Potential Economic Impact

Flying drones are far more useful than many realize. Thanks to the FAA’s new regulations, they can be used in “construction, surveying, agriculture, firefighting, search and rescue, conservation, academic research, film and video production and countless other fields that will benefit from an affordable aerial perspective,” says a recent press release from leading commercial drone manufacturer, DJI

They could also give the economy an $82 billion boost and pave the way for the creation of over 100,000 jobs in the next decade. 

Lingering Concerns

The FAA failed address privacy and safety concerns, despite 4,500 written complaints and scores of arguments they received prior to issuing the guidelines, notes the Wall Street Journal

A notable concern is the close proximity to airports in which drones have operated. As a result, “safety experts, drone proponents and lawmakers [have called] for automated digital fencing to prevent such incursions” along with stricter training requirements for operators, the WSJ adds. 

Let's hope the FAA will enact rules in the near future to address these shortcomings as the popularity of commercial drones increases.