The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) have released the long-awaited final rule for routine operation of commercial small unmanned aircraft systems, also known as “drones.” This represents a major milestone in the industry and paves the way for streamlined operations across industries, including agriculture, forestry, and land surveying. The rules will take effect in August 2016 and are inline with what HoneyComb has promoted and advocated—balancing safety, innovation, and common sense.

Section 333 exemptions are no longer required for operations that fall within the guidelines, representing a vast majority of use cases and eliminating the lengthy application process. In addition, there is no longer a need for a full pilot’s license or a secondary observer. Drones must weigh less than 55 pounds, operate within line-of-sight, and stay below 400 feet AGL. Licensing requirements include a ground-based knowledge test administered at one of the many Knowledge Testing Centers located throughout the country.  A complete summary of the rules can be found here along with the original press release.

As the dust settles, savvy operators will recognize that the final rule has taken a very similar form to that which was initially recommended for recreational operators in 1981. It seems that over the past 35 years common sense hasn’t changed, and HoneyComb is happy to see the FAA and DOT reaffirm that.

In the coming weeks and months HoneyComb will provide:

  • Coverage of the latest updates and implications
  • Guidance concerning the FAA’s knowledge test
  • Considerations when selecting a drone platform
  • Insights into operating a successful drone business
  • Drone, image processing, and data demonstrations

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