Feds Clear Commercial Drones for Takeoff: What You Need to Know

What you need to know before your business takes flight.

No longer do businesses need to be granted special permission from regulators on a case-by-case basis. In the next year, the FAA estimates that more than 600,000 commercial drones will be registered and operating in the U.S.

This is what you need to know about the new rules.

What Are the Rules?

The drone must weigh under 55 pounds and be kept within direct eyesight of the operator, with his or her naked eye, throughout the duration of the flight.

The drones may only fly during daylight hours and they must be kept away from crowds. The rules restrict drone use to sparsely populated areas. And remember, stay low and slow: The drone should remain below 400 feet and never operate faster than 100 mph.

The operator must also be an FAA-certified pilot.

How Does One Become a Certified Pilot?

A certified pilot must be 16 years old and able to read, speak, write and understand English. He or she is expected to be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate the aircraft.

After meeting these requirements, a soon-to-be pilot must pass a knowledge exam at an FAA-approved testing center.

What If a Business Needs to Operate Outside These Rules?

Many businesses plan to use drones at night or out of direct eyesight. In a case where a company needs to fly outside of the operational restrictions, the company can apply for a waiver.

The FAA said this morning that it is issuing more than 70 waivers today alone; most were for permission to operate at night.

What Are Businesses Using Drones for?

Any business that needs photos or videos from the air will benefit greatly from these new rules. For example, real estate firms can take new photos and videos of properties. Farmers can inspect crops more efficiently than ever. Railroads can inspect tracks faster than ever while oil or gas companies can do the same with pipelines.

Many of these uses will require a waiver, but the FAA has a process in place to make that possible.