The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently finalized the first operational rules, to be effective on August 29, 2016, governing the routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones. The new regulations – codified at Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations – are the first major step toward integrating the commercial use of UAS into the national airspace. According to the FAA and industry analysts, the new rules could create over 100,000 new jobs and generate over $82 billion for the U.S. economy in the next ten years alone.

The new regulations are designed to minimize the risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground. Among other requirements, the regulations require the operator to keep the drone within visual line-of-sight at all times. The operator must ensure that the drone avoids manned aircraft and must not operate the drone in a careless or reckless manner. Drones may not be flown over any persons not directly participating in the operations and may not be operated under a covered structure.

The operation of drones is prohibited from a moving vehicle, unless the operation is over a sparsely populated area. Drones must be used during daylight hours only; however, drones may be used during twilight hours (30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset) if the drone has appropriate anti-collision lighting. The regulations provide for a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour, and the maximum allowable altitude is 400 feet above ground level, or higher as long as the drone stays within 400 feet of a structure. Many of the foregoing requirements may be waived in advance by the FAA pursuant to a certificate of waiver.

In additional to the operational limitations, the new rules also require the operator of a commercial drone to have a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating, or be under the direct supervision of a person who holds such a certificate. More information about the new commercial drone regulations, including how to obtain a remote pilot airman certificate, can be found on the FAA’s website at the following link: https://www.faa.gov/uas/.

It is important to note that the new Part 107 rules do not apply to the hobby or recreational operation of model aircraft, which must continue to satisfy the requirements specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (to be codified in Part 101 of the Federal Aviation Regulations).