FAA Releases Commercial Drone Rules (Part 107)

Finally! The Federal Aviation Administration, which is the governing body for all things airborne in the United States, has released their final rules for the commercial operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in U.S. airspace. We’ve been waiting for this moment for quite a few years and now that it’s here, we’ve got to say that we’re really quite happy with the result.

The new Small UAS Rules (Part 107) become effective as of August 29th, 2016 and the restrictions are largely what the commercial drone community has been advocating for over the last few years. Here are the highlights:

  • There must be a Remote Pilot in Command of each drone. In order to be the Remote Pilot in Command, that person must have
    • A valid Remote Pilot Certificate (FAA or pilot testing, bi-annual flight reviews, small UAS online course certificate and approval from the TSA)
    • Preflighted the drone
    • Only one drone under command at any given time
  • You may only fly during the day and with line of sight to the drone. No missions outside of the line of sight of the operator or night flights are allowed. FPV flying is allowed but you cannot break the line of sight rule.
  • You must have at least 3 miles of weather visibility.
  • You cannot fly over people and must yield right of way to other aircraft.
  • Obtain permission from air traffic control to operate in Class B, C, D and E airspace. Operations in class G airspace are allowed.
  • Flight Maximums:
    • Max altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL)
    • Max groundspeed of 100 MPH (87 knots)
    • The total aircraft weight cannot exceed 55 lbs

Of note is that the FAA has said that most of the requirements are able to be waived if you can demonstrate that you can fly your mission(s) safely. It’s fantastic to see that level of flexibility from a government agency. The complete text of the Part 107 rules is available here and, obviously, we strongly urge anyone flying for commercial purposes to read and understand the rules in their entirety before any flight operations. The FAA website has done a pretty good job of laying out the requirements and process for approval here.

As expected, there are quite a few questions that have been raised after the release of these new regulations. The answers below are not a substitute for legal advice. If you have other questions, please feel free to contact us.

What do the new Part 107 rules mean for commercial operators who already have a section 333 exemption?

If you’re one of the thousands of businesses that already has a section 333 exemption, you can continue to operate under the limitations of that ruling until its expiration. You can, of course, also operate under the rules of Part 107. That means that you have additional flexibility and options for legal commercial UAV flight over what a business operating under only Part 107 will. When your exemption is up for renewal, the FAA will consider the purpose of the exemption and whether your operations fall within the part 107 rules. If you can operate within Part 107, your 333 exemption will not likely be eligible for renewal.

What do the new Part 107 rules mean for commercial operators who have a section 333 exemption application submitted?

As of July 2016, there are still thousands of section 333 exemption applications pending with the FAA. Unfortunately, it’s likely that unless you have an exemption request that falls outside of Part 107 rules, your exemption will likely not be processed and the time and money you spent preparing it will be wasted. On the up-side, you will have the ability to fly commercially as requested.

Will the FAA still issue section 333 exemptions to commercial drone operators?

You may no longer apply for a new section 333 exemption and must operate within the confines of the new part 107 rules. If you have a flight need that falls outside of the Part 107 rules, you can apply for an exemption to that rule. The wait will likely be comparable to that of a 333 exemption (6-12 months).

How with the FAA Part 107 rules impact recreational flight?

Not at all. To learn about the rules for recreational drone flight, visit the FAA’s Fly for Fun page, here.


What do you think about the new Part 107 commercial drone flight rules? Let us know!

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