Tuesday, June 21, 2016

After years in the making, FAA rules will clear way for routine flights of small commercial drones

After years of struggling to write rules that will both protect public safety and free the benefits of a new technology, the Obama administration is on the verge of approving routine commercial use of small drones. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to announce as early as Tuesday the creation of a new category of rules for drones weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kg). The long-anticipated rules will mean drone operators would be able to fly without special permission. Currently, they have to apply for a waiver from rules that govern manned aircraft, a process that can be time-consuming and expensive. Since 2014 the FAA has granted more than 6,100 waivers and another 7,600 are waiting for approval. Many more small companies have been using drones without FAA permission, say industry officials. Unless those operators make a serious mistake that brings them to the FAA’s attention, there is not a lot the agency can do to track them down. The new rules will provide an easier way for those businesses to operate legally. The rules also will effectively lift the lid on flights by other potential operators who have held off using the technology — real estate agents who want bird’s eye videos of properties, ranchers who want to count their cattle and a multitude of other businesses...more

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