Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—popularly known as drones—have enormous possibilities for use in the business world. In fact, the drone market is expected to exceed $12 billion by 2021. The small size, maneuverability, and ability to carry various types of recording or sensory devices makes drones attractive for many types of commercial use from delivery services, such as Amazon’s First Prime Air Delivery service to managing inventory by using drones with RFID sensors and managing agriculture. However, any company considering the commercial use of drones should be aware of the evolving legal landscape regarding their use. How a company plans to use a drone will help determine the legal requirements that must be met.

Small drones will fit the needs of many businesses. In this Part 1 of a two-part series, we discuss the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for small drone use. FAA Part 107 Rule allows business use of small drones if certain rules are followed. Some of the key requirements are below:

  • Drones must be less than 55 pounds (including payload)
  • Each drone must be registered with the FAA
  • All flights must be conducted within visual line of sight, only during daylight or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) hours, no higher than 400 feet, and at no more than 100 mph
  • Drones cannot be flown over people without their permission
  • Drones cannot be flown in controlled airspace and must yield to manned aircraft

Drones less than 0.55 pounds are not subject to this rule. Some of these rules also may be waived by the FAA.

In addition to the FAA requirements, businesses should be aware of other regulations that may apply to drone usage, such as privacy requirements, and state and local laws.