The FAA’s new final rule, which will revolutionize commercial operations of small drones (also known as small Unmanned Aircraft Systems or sUAS), will become effective on Monday, August 29, 2016. The FAA is replacing its previous commercial sUAS regime requiring individual, case-by-case adjudications and establishing a broad authority for pilots to operate within certain parameters.

Commercial operators of sUAS weighting 55 lbs or less will no longer need to petition for a Section 333 exemption if the operation falls under the new rule (also known as Part 107). Part 107 requires remote pilots-in-command (RPIC) to maintain visual line of sight with the sUAS at all times and to operate at a maximum altitude of 400 feet, at a maximum speed of 100 mph, during daytime hours, and not over non-participants. The RPIC will need to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test, be at least 16 years old, and be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration. The first test will be administered on August 29, 2016 at FAA-approved knowledge testing centers.

Operations outside the scope of Part 107 will be possible through a waiver application process as long as the operation is demonstrated to be safe. Waivable restrictions include flights beyond visual line of sight, night time operations, operations above non-participants, speed and altitude limitations, operations of multiple sUAS, and operations in certain airspace. Waivers will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and the certificate of waiver may impose special conditions to safely operate the sUAS.