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FAA Releases New Commercial Drone Guidelines

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a new set of rules for commercial drone use.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a new set of rules for commercial drone use that removes some barriers for drone deliveries but leaves others in place. Listed as “Part 107,” these new guidelines require companies to register their drones online and then pass a knowledge test to be certified, a lesser restriction than previously needing a manned aircraft pilot’s license.

Until now, commercial operators had to apply for a waiver from rules that govern manned aircraft, a time-consuming process that has left 7,600 applications waiting for approval since 2014.

Starting in late August, the new rules will allow for drones weighing less than 55 pounds to fly up to 400 feet high and move at 100 miles per hour. Drones will not be allowed to fly at night unless they have special lighting and must stay at least five miles from airports.

The rules also noted that an operator can fly a commercial drone without a certificate if they are supervised by someone who has been certified, indicating that multiple drones could be operated by a single certified operator.

However, companies aiming to use drones for deliveries still face two major obstacles: Drones must remain in sight of an operator and can’t be flown over people.

Amazon and Google have both said they plan to start using drones to deliver products ordered online by 2017. Jordy Gamson, co-owner of The Icebox (asi/229395), used drones for aerial photography of the Atlanta Beltline Lantern Parade in 2014. He says its success means he has high hopes for drone deliveries once the technology evolves and the legislation is passed.

“Delivery by drones is a foregone conclusion,” Gamson said in an interview with Counselor.  “It will make deliveries faster and will allow people’s budgets to be more specific to actual numbers instead of projections. If it gives me an edge over another distributor, I’ll take it.”

Harry Ein, owner of Perfection Promo (asi/232119), says it’s too early for the promotional products industry to consider drone deliveries because of the weight requirements. “We deal with more bulk ordering, so for the most part, our orders are several boxes worth,” Ein told Counselor. “I can’t imagine how a drone would be able to carry all of that. Perhaps sometime down the road, we can use drones for delivering tech accessories or on-demand printing.”

In March, a Senate committee approved legislation that gave the FAA two years to develop rules for commercial drones used to deliver goods. The White House says drones could lead to $82 billion in economic growth by 2025 and support up to 100,000 jobs.