New rules favor small, independent commerical drone use, but could squash Amazon's drone delivery service before it gets off the ground.
The Federal Aviation Administration has finally taken the wraps off of its proposed rules and regulations for commercial drone/UAV/UAS usage, and larger commercial operations could be left out in the lurch.
The proposed regulations allow for relatively lax rules when it comes to commercial drones under 55 pounds. Operators would have to pass a relatively simple written exam, and upkeep of drones would be unregulated. This means the workers that would benefit from drones the most -- farmers, Hollywood camera operators, etc. -- would encounter very little red tape after the initial paperwork was completed. The test would need to be passed again every two years.
Operator certification aside, there are several key regulations when it comes to flying the drone. Operators would need to maintain line of sight at all times, and the flight ceiling is capped at 500 feet. Furthermore, drones will not be able to fly over crowds of people, "...not involved in the drone's flight," according to The Wall Street Journal. This means flying your drone over the town square isn't kosher, but a camera operator could fly over a crowd of extras or actors on a movie set without incurring the wrath of the feds. Additionally, any drone use in urban areas would need a flight plan, and approval before launch.
Additional rules could also be crafted specifically for "micro drones," or those weighing under 4.4 pounds.
While the proposed regulations should allow for smaller businesses and ventures to use drones as they see fit, the hotly-anticipated drone delivery service market (see: Amazon Prime Air) could be permanently grounded. The service would undoubtedly fly over people un-involved in the venture, and its automation means there's no pilot that would maintain line of sight.
Similar to the FCC's net neutrality proposals, the FAA has now opened a 60-day window for public comment on the proposed regulations. You can find the comment page here, if you're so inclined.
There's still no word on when my neighborhood is getting its laser-based drone defense system, unfortunately.
What do you think of the (long overdue) drone regulations? Let us know in the forums.