07 August 2017
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has moved to begin the opening of US airspace to commercial operations with the issuance of the first rules for the operation of commercial drones in national airspace. Over the past several years the FAA has shown increasing flexibility in working to open airspace to UAS.
The Part 107 rules, which went into effect in August 2016, are the latest indication of the new FAA attitude. The rules specify a series of criteria that must be met before small UAS can undertake commercial operations. Small UAS is defined as systems that are 55 pounds and under.
The rules are important because they should ease access to airspace. The previous Section 333 process of exemptions was slow and potentially costly for companies to do the required paperwork. Under the new rules for Part 107, no pilot’s license is required although there is a knowledge test.
Part 107 does allow for operators to request a waiver of some of the usual restrictions on flying beyond visual line-of-sight, flying over people and night operations. These are all important limitations on the potential for commercial operations, particularly flying beyond line-of-sight and flying over people. It remains to be seen the extent to which the FAA will be willing to make waivers.
The rules are also important in spurring interest from law enforcement and fire agencies that must no longer operate under the cumber-some certificate of authorization process of the past. The Part 107 rules provide for: