Rules for drone use took flight this Tuesday after the White House released a set of regulations on the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles. The Federal Aviation Administration’s rules pertain to drones used for hobbies, although the administration also addressed future uses for commercial drones.
“These rules will open up the National Airspace System to a major new technology and create new jobs while ensuring that we protect privacy and safety,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a blog post from the White House website. “The final ‘Small Unmanned Aircraft System’ rule that the Department of Transportation is releasing today is the first set of nationally uniform regulations for the commercial, educational, and public use of unmanned aircraft.”
In this announcement, the FAA mandates that drones must be operated in the daylight, weigh less than 55 pounds, and fly no higher than 400 feet. Drone operators will not be allowed to fly their drones over people and should keep their drone in sight at all times. Additionally, commercial drone pilots must go through the Transportation Security Administration’s screening process and pass an FAA aeronautical knowledge test.
Although the level of risk remains the same for commercial and hobbyist drone users alike, the FAA rules impose different regulations on commercial pilots. The difference in regulation has caused certain Information Technology organizations to comment on the discrepancy regarding the unmanned aircraft systems users.
“A hobbyist taking a picture with a UAS presents no more of a risk than a professional photographer doing the same,” said Daniel Castro, Vice President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, in a press release regarding the drones. “It is incumbent on Congress to fix this issue and allow the FAA to enforce a technology-neutral common set of rules across all UAS users.”
Commercial use of drones provides opportunities for economic growth, according to Foxx’s statement. By 2025, positions involving commercial drones could create employment opportunities for 100,00 Americans and add $82 billion in economic value. The FAA reported that drone sales yielded $2.5 million this year, a sum that is expected to grow to $7 million by 2020.
As of this year, there are 10,602 commercial drones; however, the FAA predicts that this number will triple in the coming years. Commercial drones can serve a wide array of purposes, such as viewing traffic patterns, tracking missing persons, and monitoring crop growth. The agricultural sector will be one of the most affected areas with the projected increase of commercial drones. Drones can help monitor crop yields for farmers who oversee thousands of acres. The drones can track crop health in real time, enabling farmers to make adjustments to their agriculture and maximize their overall yield.
Private business marks another realm in which drone use will take off in the next few years. Amazon, Google, and Walmart are testing the use of drones for home deliveries. While the use of drones has the potential to shape business and delivery services, safety remains a concern. Two chief issues are the risk of drones colliding with an airplane or hitting a person. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta stated that safety measures will be put in place; for example, drones will be furnished with lights that will be visible for three miles.
“The department is working cooperatively with industry,” Huerta told USA TODAY. “We certainly see the benefit of this. What we need to see is that it can be done safely.”
Foxx corroborated the importance of safety in his post. The FAA will work with local governments, airports, and private companies to ensure that the new rules are understood and enforced. In tandem with the new drone regulations, the FAA is launching a privacy education campaign to inform pilots and companies of this new technology’s implications.
“The administration believes that expanded use of drones must be done responsibly, with clear rules of the road that ensure strong safety and privacy protections,” said Foxx.