On Tuesday June 21, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) announced the release of the long awaited regulations for the commercial operation of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“sUAS”) – to be promulgated in 14 C.F.R. Part 107 (the “Commercial UAS Regulations”). The Commercial UAS Regulations will be effective sixty (60) days from the date of their publication in the Federal Register. Highlights of the new Commercial UAS Regulations are as follows:

Pilot Requirements:

  • A person operating a sUAS must either hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a sUAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who holds a remote pilot certificate (remote pilot in command).
  • To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, a person must demonstrate aeronautical knowledge by either:
    • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center; or
    • Hold a part 61 pilot certificate, have completed a flight review within the previous 24 months, and complete a sUAS online training course provided by the FAA; and
    • Be at least 16 years old with ability to read, speak, write, and understand English.

Operational Limitations:

  • The sUAS must weigh less than 55 pounds (including payload);
  • Maximum altitude is 400 feet Above Ground Level
  • Maximum speed is 100 miles per hour;
  • The sUAS must remain within visual line of sight of the operator or an observer; and
  • The sUAS may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation of the sUAS.

Aircraft Requirements:

  • An FAA airworthiness certificate is not required.
  • The sUAS must be registered with FAA and marked prior to its first flight

FAA has also announced a plan to address the backlog of 333 Exemption Petitions. All outstanding 333 Exemption Petitions will be divided into three categories. First, applicants for exemption petitions that will now be permitted under the Commercial UAS Regulations will be informed by the FAA that an exemption is no longer needed for the proposed operation. Second, applicants that submitted 333 Exemption Petitions that may now be permitted by an FAA issued waiver from the requirements of the Commercial UAS Regulations (many of the operational requirements, such as airspeed, altitude, operations near nonparticipants, use of multiple UAS, etc., are, pursuant to the provisions of the Commercial UAS Regulations, waivable) will be provided notice from the FAA that the application is being moved from FAA’s exemption evaluation process to its waiver evaluation process. Third, FAA will continue to evaluate petitions for which a 333 Exemption is still required (e.g., UAS weighing over 55 lbs.).